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He might have been gay but hid it out of anger, shame: Orlando shooter’s ex-wife

world Updated: Jun 14, 2016 15:24 IST
Omar Mateen

An undated photo from a social media account of Omar Mateen responsible for the massacre of 50 people in a gay club in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016. Reports say that Mateen was himself a regular at the gay nightspot and used a gay dating app. (Reuters)

29-year-old Omar Mateen, who gunned down 49 people at a gay club in Orlando, himself might have been gay but chose to hide his true identity out of anger and shame, his former wife has said as authorities looked into reports that he had visited the Florida club several times and also used a gay dating app.

Sitora Yusufiy said she had met Mateen online in 2008 and the two got married in 2009.

He “might have been gay but chose to hide his true identity out of anger and shame”, she said.

A New York Times report cited a senior federal law enforcement official as saying that the FBI was looking at reports that Mateen had used a gay dating app.

Patrons of Pulse, the club where he killed 49 people in the worst shooting case in US history, were quoted as saying that he had visited the club several times.

Yusufiy said that her ex-husband had told her that he frequented nightclubs before their marriage, but that he did not tell her they were gay clubs.

CBS News said in a report that club-goers have told investigators that Mateen had been at Pulse previously.

The Orlando Sentinel and other news organizations also quoted regular customers at the gay bar as saying they had seen Mateen there a number of 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,” said Ty Smith, a patron at the bar.

Smith said he saw Mateen inside the club at least a dozen times.

‘Simple, Amercanised of same religion’

Yusufiy, during an interview at her home in Colorado, said Mateen had seemed “perfect — American enough for her free spirit and Muslim enough to please her traditional family.

“This man was a simple, Americanized guy that was also from my culture. And, you know, had the same religion,” she said.

“So I was like, OK , this could potentially satisfy my parents.”

She moved to Florida, and they married in a quiet courthouse ceremony in 2009, but the short-lived marriage was marred by violence and isolation, she said.

She had no friends or family in Florida, and Mateen preferred that she stay in the house.

She said he sometimes returned from work angry and agitated, including one night when she fell asleep on the floor waiting for him to return home.

“All I remember is being woken up by a pillow being taken from under my head,” she said.

“I hit my head on the ground and then he started pulling my hair. He almost killed me,” she said.

“Because he started choking me. And I somehow got out of it and I tried to tackle him.”

The couple separated within a year, and in 2011 Mateen filed for divorce, the NYT report said.

On terror watch

The report added that Mateen was one of the people the FBI had spoken to after Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a young American man from coastal Florida drove a truck packed with explosives into a hilltop restaurant in Syria in May 2014.

Mateen had attended the same mosque as Abusalha and they knew each other “casually”.

Mateen had also been on a terrorism watch list for incendiary comments he once made to co-workers at a local courthouse.

The NYT said early examination of Mateen’s life “reveals a hatred of gay people and a stew of contradictions. He was a man who could be charming, loved Afghan music and enjoyed dancing, but he was also violently abusive.”

Mateen’s family members have said he was not overly religious, but he was rigid and conservative in his view that his wife should remain mostly at home.

FBI director James Comey said that Mateen had once claimed ties to both Al Qaeda and Hezbollah — two radical groups violently opposed to each other.

Mateen had earned an associate degree in criminal justice technology from Indian River State College in 2006, the year he began working for the Florida Department of Corrections at a facility just west of Port St Lucie.