Florida authorities have twice examined possible links to terrorism to the gunman who opened fire on unsuspecting people inside a popular LGBT nightclub on Sunday, killing at least 50 and wounding 53 more in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
The FBI confirmed that Omar Mateen, 29, was the attacker who took Pulse hostage for several hours, engaging in a gun battle with more than a dozen officers before he was felled by police bullets.
The gunman was a New York-born Florida resident and U.S. citizen who was the son of Afghan immigrants. He was shot dead by police who stormed the club in attempt to free the hostages.
Terry DeCarlo arrived at Pulse at 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning. He later told reporters that the scene was “right out of a movie.”
Police had blocked the area nearby the club, where DeCarlo and others gathered, trying to find out what had happened to their patrons locked inside.
“It was surreal. I felt helpless,” said DeCarlo, director of The Center, a community resource for the LGBT community. “I kept thinking, if this is a bad dream, I need to wake up.”
Meanwhile, new details about the mass killer and his family have emerged. Omar Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, declared that gays should be “punished by God” and posed with the Afghan flag in military fatigues in this image.
And in a video he posted online, he announced his decision to run for presidency in Afghanistan.
Previously Mir Seddique was assuring the press representatives that the shooting “has nothing to do with religion”.
“We are saying we are apologized for the whole incident,” Seddique told NBC News. “We weren’t aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country.”
“According to a law-enforcement source who spoke with The Miami Herald, Mateen called 911 from the club to express support for the Islamic State terrorist group,” Kansas City says.
“At a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Orlando FBI Special Agent in Charge Ron Hopper would not confirm media reports that Mateen “pledged” allegiance to the militant group. But he did say that Mateen had twice come under FBI scrutiny.”
Once in 2013, Mateen was alleged to have made “inflammatory comments” to co-workers regarding terrorism. But a “physical surveillance,” records checks and two interviews with Mateen led to no charges, Hopper said.
“We were unable to verify the substance of his comments,” he added.
One co-worker told the Miami Herald Mateen was fluent in the language of hate, often using slurs to describe African-Americans and gays.
“He was always on the edge, always hyper and agitated,” Daniel Gilroy said. “He would never have more than three or four sentences without using the word n****r or queer or dike. It was always about violence. It was always the F-bomb.”
Mateen was able to purchase both weapons legally days before the shooting, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“He is not a prohibited person, so he can legally walk into a gun dealership and acquire and purchase firearms. He did so. And he did so within the last week or so,” ATF Assistant Special Agent In Charge Trevor Velinor said Sunday in Orlando.