Omar Mateen forced his way into history behind the barrel of a gun. His past, such as it was, has been washed away by the blood of his victims, the 49 innocents he gunned down at Pulse nightclub on the morning of June 12.
He was once the son of immigrants; he was once a father, a husband and a divorcee.
He worked as a security guard. He graduated from college with an associate degree in criminal justice and dreamed of becoming a police officer.
But 29-year-old Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce died a murderer, the perpetrator of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. His three-hour rampage at Pulse killed or injured more than 100 people.
In the end, Mateen was killed in a firefight with the Orlando Police Department SWAT team. Before he died, he phoned 911 to pledge his allegiance to the terrorist group ISIS.
It was possibly not his first visit to Pulse, a gay club just south of downtown Orlando. Club patron Ty “Aries” Smith said he’d seen Mateen at the club more than a dozen times.
“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” Smith told the Orlando Sentinel. “We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times. He told us he had a wife and child.”
Another patron, Kevin West, told the Los Angeles Times he saw Mateen and even exchanged a greeting with him on the night of the shooting.
Mateen’s father, Seddique Mir Mateen of Port St. Lucie, described his son as a kind and well-educated man, one largely disconnected from his family’s Afghani heritage. He recalled how upset his son was after seeing men kissing on the street in Miami earlier this year.
“We were in downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music. And he saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry,” Seddique Mateen said in an interview with NBC News. “They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said, ‘Look at that. In front of my son they are doing that.’ And then we were in the men’s bathroom and men were kissing each other.”
Seddique Mateen has published several videos expressing support for the Afghanistan Taliban.
Mateen’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, said her husband had a short temper and would abuse her often. The two lived together for fewer than four months before she eventually fled their home, fearing for her safety. St. Lucie County court records show the two were legally married from 2009 to 2011.
“In the beginning, he was a normal being that cared about family, loved to joke, loved to have fun,” she told the Washington Post. “But then, a few months after we were married, I saw his instability and I saw that he was bipolar and he would get mad out of nowhere. That’s when I started worrying about my safety.”
Mateen would later marry Noor Zahi Salman and have a son, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Salman was present when Mateen bought ammunition for his weapons, and he once made her take him to Pulse to “scope it out,” according to NBC News. It’s unclear if she’ll face charges.
Daniel Gilroy, a former security officer with G4S Security, worked alongside Mateen for several months between 2014 and 2015. He said Mateen would often make racist and homophobic remarks when on the job.
“I quit because everything he said was toxic, and the company wouldn’t do anything. This guy was unhinged and unstable. He talked of killing people,” Gilroy said.
Jasmine Kalenuik, a resident of Palm City, encountered Mateen several times during his time as a security guard. She recalled being unsettled by his behavior.
“He made me so uncomfortable,” Kaleniuk said in an interview with the Miami Herald. “He asked me for my ID, and when he gave it back he just holds onto it and he’s clinging to it and breathing weird and smiling at me with this crazed stare.”
The FBI investigated Mateen twice for possible terrorist ties, once in 2013 after he made “inflammatory comments” to co-workers, and again in 2014 due to his association with Moner Mohammad Abusalha, an American who carried out a suicide bombing attack in Syria. Neither investigation uncovered sufficient evidence to arrest Mateen.
Bernard Wilchusky is the Editor-in-Chief of the Central Florida Future. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cameradudeman.