Omar Mateen, the shooter who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, was actually gay himself, a newspaper quotes a former classmate as saying.
The man was in the same 2006 police academy class as Mateen, and said that Mateen had once asked him out on a date, the Palm Beach Post reported Monday night. The man asked not be be identified.
The classmate went on to say that he, Mateen and other classmates would hang out, sometimes going to gay nightclubs, after classes at the Indian River Community College police academy.
“We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer,” the classmate said of Mateen asking him out.
Mateen, 29, was born in New York City to Afghan parents. He worked as a private security guard and lived in Port St. Lucie, Florida, which lies 125 miles south of Orlando, where the massacre took place. He was killed by police during a shootout after he stormed the gay nightclub at around 2 a.m. ET Sunday and carried out the most deadly mass shooting in U.S. history, leaving 49 dead and 53 wounded.
The shooter, who has been described as “mentally ill” by his ex-wife, called 911 during the attack and reportedly pledged his allegiance to ISIS. Amaq Agency, a news outlet associated with the so-called Islamic State, reported the terror group claimed responsibility for the violence, which would mark the worst terror attack on U.S. soil since the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
At the community college, Mateen was desperate to fit in as “no one liked him,” his classmate said, according to the Post. “He was always socially awkward.”
Mateen’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, said that he was abusive and unstable during their brief marriage. During an interview with Brazilian TV on Monday, Yusufiy’s current boyfriend said that she’d described Mateen as having “gay tendencies.”
Members of the gay community in Orlando have also claimed that Mateen had previously visited Pulse on a number of occasions. He also used the gay chat and dating app, Jack’d, clubgoer Kevin West told the Los Angeles Times.
At least four other regulars at the nightclub said they had seen him there before on up to a dozen occasions.
“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,” Ty Smith said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times,” Smith continued. “He told us he had a wife and child.”
Other witnesses say that he’d been frequenting the club for at least three years. One recalled Mateen having to be escorted out drunk on multiple occasions, and another said he stopped talking to him after Mateen made violent threats because someone made a joke about religion.
“He ended up pulling a knife,” Chris Callen, who performs under the name Kristina McLaughlin, told the Canadian Press. “He said if he ever messed with him again, you know how it’ll turn out.”
The shooter’s father, Seddique Mateen is adamant that his son was straight. “If he was gay, why would he do something like this?” he asked the Post.
Mateen bought the weapons he used — a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol and .223-caliber assault rifle — at St. Lucie Shooting Center a few days before the massacre. Owner Edward Henson on Monday said he “vaguely” remembered him.
“He’s a nobody,” said Henson. “He’s a customer. He came and purchased his guns, and he left.”