‘He confessed to me that he very much enjoyed going to clubs and the nightlife’
The man who murdered 49 people at a gay club in Orlando was a closet homosexual who used gay dating apps and frequented gay bars, according to friends and locals in the city.
On Tuesday police were considering pressing charges against Omar Mateen’s second wife, Nour Salman, 30, who told the FBI she went with him to scope out possible targets, and that she had tried to stop him from carrying out the attack.
Ms Salman lived in a suburb of Chicago before moving to Fort Pierce with Mateen in November 2012. In December 2015 she is believed to have left Florida and moved in with relatives in Rodeo, California. She has not spoken publicly and has scrubbed her social media accounts since the attack.
Her few remaining pictures show her smiling and posing with Mateen and a child believed to be their son. A photo from Instagram Salman shows Mateen kissing a child, with the caption: “Daddy’s boy.”
Yet others who knew the New York-born killerhave painted a picture of a gay man who could not come to terms with his sexuality.
“I recognise his face,” said Justin Datz, 33, who works at Parliament – a hotel and resort which has been home to the city’s gay community since 1975.
“I’m not on gay dating apps or anything anymore, but he certainly looks familiar. So when I heard he frequented gay bars around here, it all made sense.”
A member of the Independent Fundamental Baptist church, which condemns homosexuality, Datz said he had some sense of what could have motivated Mateen.
“I went through that self hatred,” he told The Telegraph. “You don’t know how to accept it. But I was never part of a community that would kill me for my sexuality. And I was able to deal with it – unlike him.” Vicky Bebout, 68-year-old doyenne of the resort, nodded.
“You know exactly how it went,” she said. “He was looking at those apps. His dad saw him. He said he hated it. He was about to get caught, and couldn’t cope. “We see it all the time here. Guys come in at lunchtime, then go home to their wives.”
Mateen’s ex-wife, Sifora Yusufiy, has said he alluded to a secret private life before they were married – a marriage arranged online in 2008, which lasted two years.
“When we had got 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,” said Ms Yusufiy, who divorced Mateen in 2011 and said he was abusive and unstable.
“So, 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.”
Speaking in Boulder, Colorado, she was asked directly by CNN whether she believed he was gay. Silent for three seconds, she shook her head a little and said: “I don’t know.”
She continued: “He never personally or physically made any indication while we were together, of that. But he did feel very strongly about homosexuality. “He might have been gay but chose to hide his true identity out of anger and shame.”
Others who knew the 29-year-old have described him in less reticent terms. In 2006 Mateen attempted to join the police. And a colleague in his academy class said he believed Mateen was gay. Mateen had asked him out, the classmate, who did not want to be named, told local television in Orlando.
“We went to a few gay bars with him,” he said. “I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer.”
Kevin West said that Mateen had contacted him on gay dating apps, and the pair exchanged messages for around a year.
They had never met in person, though, until they crossed paths by chance an hour before the shooting.
West was dropping off a friend at the club when he noticed Mateen – whom he knew by sight but not by name – crossing the street, wearing a dark cap and carrying a black phone.
“He walked directly past me. I said, ‘Hey,’ and he turned and said, ‘Hey,’” and nodded his head,” West told the Los Angeles Times. “I could tell by the eyes.” Jim Van Horn, 71, said he was a regular at the club. “He’s a homosexual and he was trying to pick up men,” said Mr Van Horn. “He would walk up to them and put his arm around them or something.
“And maybe try to get them to dance a little bit or something, and go over and buy them a drink.”
He once struck up a conversation with Mateen, but his friends pulled him away – saying there was “something strange” about him.
But another couple, who work together as drag-dancing performers, said they had seen Mateen as many as a dozen times at Pulse, and that he went to the club to escape his home life.Chris Callen, 34, who goes by the stage name of Kristina McLaughlin, said Mateen began showing up about three years ago. “He was a nice guy,” said Mr Calleen, who also works at Parliament.
“He was at the bar. He was actually talking with another guy. I turned around. I was in drag. I said hello. He seemed comfortable.
“As I was onstage he was standing next to somebody, having a conversation, having a good time close to the stage.
“Later on that night he was out there dancing with another guy. It could be he just went crazy. Maybe he got radicalised and hated who he was.”
The wife of the gunman who killed 49 people at an Orlando gay nightclub knew of his plans for the attack and could soon be charged in connection with the deadliest mass shooting in modern UShistory, a law enforcement source said on Tuesday.
The source told Reuters that a federal grand jury had been convened and could charge Omar Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman, as early as Wednesday.
“It appears she had some knowledge of what was going on,” said USSenator Angus King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which received a briefing on the attack on Tuesday.
“She definitely is, I guess you would say, a person of interest right now and appears to be cooperating and can provide us with some important information,” Mr King told CNN.
FoxNews.com, citing an FBI source, said prosecutors were seeking to charge Mateen’s wife as an accessory to 49 counts of murder and 53 counts of attempted murder and failure to notify law enforcement about the pending attack and lying to federal agents.
NBC News said Ms Salman told federal agents she tried to talk her husband out of carrying out the attack. But she also told the FBI she once drove him to the Pulse nightclub because he wanted to scope it out, the network said.
Mateen, who was shot dead by police after a three-hour standoff at the Pulse club early on Sunday, called 911 during his shooting spree to profess allegiance to various militant Islamist groups.
Federal investigators have said he was likely self-radicalised and there was no evidence that he received any instruction or aid from outside groups such as Islamic State. Mateen, 29, was a UScitizen, born in New York of Afghan immigrant parents.
“He appears to have been an angry, disturbed, unstable young man who became radicalised,” President Barack Obama said after a meeting of the White House National Security Council.
A former wife of Mateen, who was a security guard, has said he was mentally unstable and beat her.
The ex-spouse, Sitora Yusufiy, said she fled their home after four months of marriage.
Ms Salman’s mother, Ekbal Zahi Salman, lives in a middle-class neighbourhood of the suburban town of Rodeo, California. A neighbour said Noor Salman only visited her mother once after she married Mateen.
Noor Salman’s mother “didn’t like him very much. He didn’t allow her (Noor) to come here,” said neighbour Rajinder Chahal. He said he had spoken to Noor Salman’s mother after the Orlando attack. “She was crying, weeping.”