Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen used gay apps and regularly visited Pulse before he shot more than 100 people inside, killing 49, according to multiple news sources.
That raises the the possibilities that Mateen either was acting out of self-loathing or casing the nightclub for an attack and trying to find victims online.
Another possible motive: the American-born Muslim was radicalized online by militant Islamic groups. He phoned police to pledge allegiance to ISIS at some point during his murderous rampage at the club.
The FBI is investigating those angles, while experts say there are probably multiple motives and no single answer to explain the largest mass shooting in the nation’s history. They say the true answer is likely to be all of the above.
Investigators have recovered Mateen’s phone and will use location data to verify whether he previously visited the club, said an official who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Palm Beach Post reported that at least five people have come forward saying they saw Mateen at gay clubs.
One former classmate of Omar Mateen’s 2006 police academy class told The Palm Beach Post that he believed Mateen was gay, saying Mateen once tried to pick him up at a bar.
According to the report, the classmate said that he, Mateen and other classmates sometimes went to gay nightclubs after classes at 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,” said the former classmate, who asked that his name not be used.
“He said, ‘Well if you were gay, you would be my type.’”
Jim Van Horn, 71, told The Associated Press that he had seen Mateen repeatedly at Pulse and talked to him once.
“He was a homosexual and he was trying to pick up men,” Van Horn said. “He would walk up to them and then he would maybe put his arm around ’em or something and maybe try to get them to dance a little bit or something.”
At least four regular customers of Pulse, the LGBT nightclub where the massacre took place, told the Orlando Sentinel they believed they’d seen Mateen there before.
Other gay men reported that Mateen had contacted them on gay apps. Owners of the app Jack’d said they’ve been unable to confirm so far that Mateen had a profile on the service. Grindr officials said they “will continue to cooperate with the authorities and do not comment on ongoing investigations.”
Adam4Adam said the company is looking at conversations and profiles on gay apps in the Orlando area for any activity by Mateen but hasn’t found anything yet.
Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, denied his son was gay and said that if he had been in the nightclub before, he may have been “scouting the place.” The elder Mateen, who lives Port St. Lucie, Florida, said that apart from the time his son got angry a few months ago over seeing two men kissing, he never saw any anti-gay behavior from him.
Psychological studies have shown that some men with repressed same-sex desires express anti-gay views, especially if they grew up in families that opposed homosexuality.
On Monday, drag performers Chris Callen and Ty Smith said Mateen got drunk at Pulse and complained about his father’s strict ways. They said Mateen had been escorted from the club several times.
Tampa Bay Times reported that Mateen visited his father one last time before embarking on what appears to be a well-planned execution.
Seddique Mateen, 59, told TBT that he grieved for his son’s victims and said he wishes that he had noticed some sign that would have led him to stop his son before it was too late.
But CBS news said the gunman’s father has well-known anti-American views and is an ideological supporter of the Afghan Taliban. A message posted by the father on Facebook early Monday morning also makes it clear he could have passed anti-homosexual views onto his son. He wrote, “God will punish those involved in homosexuality,” saying it’s, “not an issue that humans should deal with.”
“People who are struggling to come to terms with their sexual identity do at times react to that by doing the exact opposite, which could be to become more masculine or more vocal about their ideals of a traditional family,” Michael Newcomb, a Northwestern University psychologist, told AP.
The attack early Sunday ended with Mateen being shot to death by a SWAT team. Of the 53 people wounded, six were listed in critical condition Tuesday and five others were in guarded condition.
Mateen’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, said earlier in the week that he was mentally ill, controlling and abusive. Amid the latest reports about his clubgoing, she told CNN: “Well, when we had gotten married, he confessed to me about his past that was recent at that time and that he very much enjoyed going to clubs and the nightlife and there was a lot of pictures of him.”
“I feel like it’s a side of him or a part of him that he lived but probably didn’t want everybody to know about,” she said.
Investigators working to determine whether anyone had advance knowledge of the attack have spoken extensively with Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman, and are working to establish whether she and Mateen were recently at or inside the club, the official said. The official said investigators have not ruled out charging others, including the wife.