Gunman in Pulse Orlando mass shooting ‘visited club a dozen times’, say regulars
The gunman who killed 49 people in a mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, visited the venue as many as a dozen times, witnesses have said.
Omar Mateen took to the Pulse club in the early hours of Sunday morning, shooting 49 people with an assault rifle, before dying in a gun battle with police.
Four witnesses told the Orlando Sentinel that they believed to have seen the 29-year-old New-York born killer on numerous occasions.
Others believe they spotted him at Orlando’s Walt Disney World, sparking concerns that it may have been a potential target for an attack.
Ty Smith, who also goes by the name Aries, told the Sentinel of Mateen’s visits to Pulse: “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.”
Smith said people in the club didn’t speak to Mateen much, but that he had talked about his family and ex-wife.
“We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times,” Smith added. “He told us he had a wife and child.”
Smith also told the Canadian Free Press that Mateen would get “really, really drunk… He couldn’t drink when he was at home—around his wife, or family. His father was really strict… He used to bitch about it,” Smith told the Canadian Press.
“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,” Smith added.
Cord Cedeno and Chris Callen, regulars at Pulse, also told the Sentinel that they had seen Mateen.
Cedeno said he had witnessed violent outbursts from the shooter, saying: “It was definitely him. He’d come in for years, and people knew him.”
Callen told the Canadian Free Press: “It’s the same guy… He’s been going to this bar for at least three years.”
Smith and Callen said they never spoke to Mateen after he threatened them with a knife.
The Los Angeles Times quotes another Pulse club regular, Kevin West, who says he was messaged intermittently by Mateen on a gay dating app.
MSNBC host Chris Hayes tweeted that West told him he had spoken with Mateen on the dating app Jack’d.
According to ABC7 News, West said: “When he first contacted me, he was saying things like, ‘What clubs are popping and things of that sort, what are good places to go?’… And I remember telling him, ‘Oh, you can just look it up online because I don’t go out that much.”
West also said he had met with FBI agents to show them his communications with Mateen.
FBI Director James Comey told the Associated Press that the agency was investigating suggestions that Mateen had been spotted at Walt Disney World.
Comey said: “We’re still working through that.”
The shooter, who lived in St Lucie, Florida, had bought the 9mm semi-automatic pistol and .233-calibre assault rifle at the St Lucie Shooting centre.
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It is believed that both guns were bought legally as Mateen held two gun licences at the time of the tragedy.
49 people were killed and 53 injured yesterday in the shocking terrorist hate crime attack, which saw a gunman open fire inside The Pulse gay bar in Orlando, Florida.
ISIS has since claimed responsibility for the attack, which was perpetrated by US citizen Omar Mateen. The majority of the victims were Latino.
In a statement, President Obama mourned the victims of the homophobic hate crime attack and called for greater restrictions on arms sales.
In response, Republican nominee Donald Trump said Obama should resign for failing to rally against Islam in his comments.
The attack has been condemned by American Muslim leaders, who addressed ISIS in saying: “You do not speak for us.”