As news of the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. spreads, individuals from the LGBTQ+ community in the area are beginning to come forward, saying that they recognize the gunman, Omar Mateen, from previous encounters, either at the club or on gay dating apps.
As many as four people told BuzzFeed News that they had seen him in the nightclub several times before, sometimes even associating with other patrons. He was known for talking about topics such as his family, and generally keeping to himself. One former club performer, Chris Callen, told CNN that he’d seen Mateen at Pulse dozens of times, and he always seemed "comfortable."
But this picture of the gunman doesn’t match the impression of him that others received.
“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself,” club regular Ty Smith told the Los Angeles Times, “and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent.”
A former club security guard even remembered having to remove Mateen from the premises after he produced a knife while upset with another patron.
Outside of the club, the gunman was reported to have held active accounts on several gay dating apps, like Jack’d and Grindr.
“He was very creepy in his messages,” Cord Cedeno, who recognizing the gunman from Grindr, told MSNBC, “I blocked him immediately.”
Additionally, Mateen’s ex-wife has come forward, saying he abused her during their marriage, and his co-workers reported him being violent and prejudiced on the job.
Childhood friends of Mateen have suggested that he was a “regular dude,” but the terrorist attacks in September 2001 changed all of that. Robert Zirkle, a former school bus acquaintance of the killer, told the LA Times that “[Mateen] was happy that Americans were dying. He made that very clear. I don’t know if he was always a Muslim radical, but he was excited, hyped up.”
Zirkle also remembered Mateen having few friends, and being threatened often because of his anti-American remarks.
While many parts of the investigation are incomplete, it is clear that the gunman’s motives may have been more than homophobia.