While gun laws and the authorities may have failed to stop Omar Mateen before he had the chance to murder 49 people and injure another 53, the owner of a Florida gun shop had the wherewithal to report him weeks before Mateen committed the worst shooting in American history.
Robbie Abell owns Lotus Gunworks, a gun store in South Florida. According to the Wall Street Journal, Abell contacted authorities and told them that a suspicious man had entered his store and attempted to purchase body armor. In five weeks, that same man would enter Pulse night club in Orlando and murder dozens of people with weapons he purchased at a different shop. Abell has confirmed that he contacted the FBI after Mateen left, according to CBS News.
Abell told the WSJ that after Mateen began asking suspicious questions about bulk ammunition and body armor, the shop owner “shut him down on all sales”. Said Abell about the incident,
‘The questions he was asking were not the normal questions a normal person would be asking… He just seemed very odd.’
The body armor Mateen inquired about is not generally available to civilians.
Abell said that Mateen made a call while he was in the store, and believed he was speaking in Arabic. His family is Afghan, and his father speaks both Pashto and Dari, two regional Afghani languages. Noor Salman, Mateen’s wife who has confessed to shopping for weapons with him, hails from the region known as Palestine, meaning she most likely speaks Arabic.
Mateen’s history as a person of interest to authorities has been going on for quite some time. He has been investigated by the FBI for making alarming remarks and other suspicious behavior three times between 2013 and 2014. During that period, he was employed as an armed security guard at the security firm G4S, but was never fired or disarmed despite the probes. He was not under investigation at the time of the attack.
Several people have come forward in the wake of the shooting to describe Mateen as strange, unsettling, and violent. A coworker of his told press that he often spoke about committing a mass killing. Mateen was briefly enrolled at Indian River Community College in the hopes of becoming a police officer, and former classmates there remember a cookout where Mateen threatened to kill everyone present because he thought his hamburger had touched pork. Indeed, his history of violent outbursts is extensive and well-documented. According to the Wall Street Journal, he had his car raided during his time in school, possibly for bringing a weapon to campus. He allegedly spoke constantly of “killing people”, “killing all black people”, and ranting against other groups such as Jews and women. Daniel Gilroy. a coworker of Mateen at G4S, said that he quit his job with G4S because his repeated warnings about his coworker’s violent tendencies were ignored.
Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS several times, both on his Facebook wall and in a 911 call from inside the night club on the night of the shooting.