Omar Mateen: How a ‘playful’ child became Orlando shooter

  • AP, Fort Pierce, Florida
  • Updated: Jun 13, 2016 17:42 IST
An undated photo from a social media account of Omar Mateen, who Orlando Police have identified as the suspect in the mass shooting at a gay nighclub in Orlando, Florida, US on Sunday. (Reuters handout)

Omar Mateen allegedly gunned down 50 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando early on Sunday.

The 29-year-old with roots from Afghanistan was a body builder and a security guard, a religious man who attended the local mosque and who at one point expressed interest in becoming a police officer, though he never pursued it.

Mateen was the son of an Afghan immigrant who had a talk show in the United States, the nature of which was not entirely clear: A former Afghan official said the program was pro-Taliban and a former colleague said it was enthusiastically pro-American.

Mateen attended evening prayer services at the city’s Islamic Center three to four times a week, most recently with his young son, said Imam Syed Shafeeq Rahman. Although he was not very social, he also showed no signs of violence, Rahman said. He said he last saw Mateen on Friday.

“When he finished prayer he would just leave,” Rahman told The Associated Press. “He would not socialise with anybody. He would be quiet. He would be very peaceful.”

Mateen opened fire early Sunday at the Pulse nightclub, killing 50 people and wounding more than 50 others before he was gunned down during an exchange of fire with Swat team members, authorities said. They say Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a call to 911 on the morning of the shooting.

Rahman doesn’t think the attack was political or due to anti-American sentiment, though. He said it was more likely the result of psychological issues Mateen may have had.

“My personal opinion is that this has nothing to do with ISIS,” he said.

Seddique Mir Mateen, the father of the alleged shooter, is a life insurance salesperson who started a group in 2010 called Durand Jirga, Inc., and ran a talk show "Durand Jirga Show" on a California-based TV channel. (YouTube screengrab)

Seddique Mir Mateen, the father of the alleged shooter, is a life insurance salesperson who started a group in 2010 called Durand Jirga, Inc., according to Qasim Tarin, a businessman from California who was a Durand Jirga board member. The name refers to the Durand line, the long disputed border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Tarin said Seddique Mir Mateen had a television show named “Durand Jirga Show” on which they discussed issues facing Afghanistan.

Authorities immediately began investigating whether the assault was an act of terrorism. A law enforcement official said the gunman made a 911 call from the nightclub professing allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The law enforcement official is familiar with the investigation but was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Read | Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was homophobe, wife beater: Reports

The shooter in 2013 made inflammatory comments to co-workers, and Mateen was interviewed twice, FBI agent Ronald Hopper said. He called those interviews inconclusive. In 2014, Hopper said, officials found that Mateen had ties to an American suicide bomber. He described the contact as minimal, saying it did not constitute a threat at the time.

Mateen purchased at least two firearms legally within the last week or so, according to Trevor Velinor of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

Rahman said he knew Mateen and his family since the shooter was a young boy. Playful as a child, he became more serious as an adult, Rahman said. He spoke both English and Farsi, and at one point wanted to become a police officer but never pursued it, the imam said. He was also into body building. He was not, as far as the imam could see, someone who would ever commit such a gruesome act of mass violence.

The shooting “was totally unexpected,” Rahman said.

Read | As IS links emerge, father says Orlando suspect not motivated by religion

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