A former classmate, former friends and other acquaintances have said that the Orlando gunman, who targeted a gay nightclub, may have been gay himself and frequented the club, Pulse, for several years before the shooting that left 49 people dead and 53 others wounded.
Omar Mateen, 29, was twice married to women and his father claims he was disgusted by seeing two men kiss in public, but several people who knew him have come forward with claims that Mateen, who was killed by police after the massacre, might have been gay.
A former police academy classmate at Indian River Community College, who was not named, told the Palm Beach Post that Mateen asked him out romantically. He said he believed Mateen was gay, but not open about it.
“We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer,” the anonymous classmate told the newspaper.
Mateen’s father told the Palm Beach Post his son was not gay. “If he was gay, why would he do something like this?” Seddique Mateen asked the reporter.
Others have said Mateen frequented Pulse, the gay nightclub he attacked Sunday morning. According to WESH-TV, he took a “selfie” in Pulse at one point.
Ty Smith and Chris Callen, a married couple who both perform as drag queens, told The Canadian Press they remember seeing Mateen at Pulse.
“It’s the same guy,” Callen, who performs under the name Kristina McLaughlin, said. “He’s been going to this bar for at least three years.”
Smith told the Orlando Sentinel, “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.
Another Pulse regular, Kevin West, told the Los Angeles Times he exchanged messages for about a year with Mateen on a gay dating app, Jack’d. He said he saw Mateen at about 1 a.m. as the gunman walked into Pulse. West was leaving at the time.
“He walked directly past me. I said, ‘Hey,’ and he turned and said, ‘Hey,’” and then nodded, West told the Times. “I could tell by the eyes.”
West told the Times he has given his phone to the FBI.
Cord Cedeno, who also frequents Pulse, told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that he recognized Mateen from a gay dating app, Grindr. Cedeno said Mateen was “creepy” in his messages.
A friend told Cedeno that Mateen has been coming to Orlando since 2007 and recognized him from another gay dating app, Adam for Adam.
Cedeno said there are “plenty of other guys” Mateen has tried to contact or hook up with.
A former friend of Mateen’s, Samuel King, who performs as a drag queen, told The Daily Beast that the gunman didn’t have a problem with the LGBT community when he knew him.
King said he worked at Ruby Tuesday’s, next to the GNC store where Mateen worked.
“That’s the thing that’s pinning me to the wall the most, that it was a gay nightclub,” King said. “Because he would come into (Ruby Tuesday’s) and laugh with us. He might’ve even sat down at the bar and had a drink and laughed with the bartenders, knowing that they were lesbians.”
King said it’s even likely that Mateen went to a drag show with them once or twice.
The FBI, which had investigated Mateen for possible radical Islamic views twice in the past, has not confirmed any of the reports about whether Mateen was at Pulse in the past or if he was on any dating websites or apps.
Mateen called 911 to pledge his allegiance to ISIS during the attack, and the so-called Islamic State terror group is known for violence against gays.