On the face of it, Omar Mateen’s worst scrape with the law was a $135 traffic ticket in 2008 — he made a bad right turn.
The only complaint Mateen’s former Port St. Lucie neighbors had with the New Yorker was with people visiting his house at odd times of day and night.
He prayed at a mosque with his 3-year-old son. He voted for president in 2008 and in the congressional elections of 2014.
That was the truth of Omar Mateen, but it was only part of the truth.
Twice catching the attention of the FBI, Mateen was linked to a homegrown suicide bomber whose first Facebook entry was a video of an imam calling for the death of homosexuals.
His first wife accused him of abuse.
As a security guard, he once was responsible for screening for weapons at a courthouse, said a former co-worker, but the same co-worker was rattled enough by Mateen’s threatening behavior to quit rather than continue working with him.
“He went boiled-rabbit crazy on me,” the co-worker said.
And if the mass slaughter he carried out in a popular Orlando gay bar Sunday morning was the product of loyalty to ISIS, as that terrorist group has claimed, it went against his father’s own sometimes-extremist views on Afghan and Pakistani politics.
Piecing together the motivations of a mass murderer is filled with dead ends and contradictions, and Mateen is no exception, starting with what brought him to the door of The Pulse nightclub, armed and bent on death.
ISIS has claimed credit for Mateen’s rampage, but Syed Shafeeq Rahman, the imam at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce where Omar Mateen came several times a week to pray, speculates Mateen may have linked himself with ISIS for publicity.
Both Mateen’s father and a former colleague suggested one other motivation.
“I never heard him refer to anybody who was black or gay as anything else but n——s and queers,” said Daniel Gilroy, who worked with Mateen as a security guard for G4S, the world’s largest security company.
Seddique Mateen, Omar Mateen’s father, told NBC news that his son “got very angry,” after seeing two men kiss each other — particularly as Mateen’s own toddler son had witnessed the kiss.
“They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said, ‘Look at that. In front of my son they are doing that.’”
Mateen’s shooting rampage came on the heels of “Gay Days Orlando,” a high-profile week of partying that draws LGBT men and women from across the United States. The weeklong event wrapped up June 6.
The politics Mateen grew up with appear less related to the Taliban or establishing a murderous caliphate, as ISIS is focused on, than it centered on a little known Afghanistan/Pakistani border dispute more than a century old.
Two Florida corporations created by Seddique Mateen, the Provisional Government of Afghanistan Corp. and The Durand Jirga Inc., are related to that border dispute. And Seddique Mateen announced his candidacy for president of Afghanistan in 2015, one of several YouTube videos posted by Mateen related to the issue.
A Washington Post translation of one video has the elder Mateen praising the Taliban: “Our brothers in Waziristan, our warrior brothers in (the) Taliban movement and national Afghan Taliban are rising up,” he said.
But The Washington Post report also noted that Mateen appeared to be rambling and disjointed — and in an interview with The Palm Beach Post, a California businessman who knows Mateen and shares his views on the border issue expressed skepticism that Mateen would support the Taliban.
In fact, a Facebook page for Mateen’s Durand Jirga Inc. reserves its anger for Pakistan, not the United States.
A potentially more unsettling link between Mateen and radicalism involved Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, a Vero Beach man who became the first American suicide bomber in Syria.
Abu-Salha’s own feelings toward homosexuality seemed to lean toward aggression: His first Facebook posting in December 2011 was a video of an imam calling for the death of homosexuals.
Abu-Salha went to the Middle East, trained, and returned to Fort Pierce, in a bid to recruit others to the cause. One of those he approached called the FBI.
A subsequent 2014 FBI investigation found “minimal” links between Abu-Salha and Omar Mateen, but not enough to justify continuing an investigation, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Ron Hopper in a Sunday news conference.
The questioning followed a previous 2013 inquiry stemming from co-workers disturbed by Mateen’s comments about militant groups.
He was investigated and interviewed twice, but the FBI was “unable to verify the substance of his comments,” Hopper said.
Trouble at work
A licensed security guard who held a firearms license, Mateen started working for G4S in 2007, according to a company newsletter. While there, he had been a screener at an area courthouse, said Daniel Gilroy, a co-worker.
Gilroy worked with Mateen after he transferred to a security guard detail at PGA Village in Port St Lucie.
Mateen took his prayer mat to work and prayed regularly, but, Gilroy found Mateen’s attitudes toward and comments to gays, African-Americans and women crude.
And then there was the screaming. Mateen was constantly agitated and on the verge of an outburst, said Gilroy, who could hear his rants even outside of the guard house.
Fed up, he told Mateen he wasn’t interested in being friends.
That’s when he went “boiled-rabbit crazy,” said Gilroy, with Mateen texting him, pleading for a reconciliation of friendship, and accusing him of betrayal so frequently that Gilroy’s girlfriend believed the two men might have been having an affair.
Rather than continue, Gilroy quit his job.
Mateen’s former wife was also on the receiving end of his outbursts.
Speaking to the press Sunday night, she described violent outbursts and beatings.”My family literally had to rescue me,” she said.
Greg Davis, a St. Lucie County man, said a friend who worked with Mateen “told me (Mateen’s) demeanor recently had drastically changed. He was working out, he really bulked up. He showed up with a rental van the last night he was at work. That’s strange because he loved his car, ” said Davis.
None of the erratic behavior showed up in the mosque, or was obvious to his neighbors.
“I would wave and say hello,” said Esmerelda Gonzalez, whose parents live next door to Mateen’s former home on
Bayshore Boulevard. “We never talked beyond that. He came over and bought stuff at a yard sale we had. He came over once and asked if he could use our property for parking because he was having a family gathering.”
Visitors sometimes came to the house at odd hours, sometimes as early as 4 a.m., said Gonzalez, but she thought nothing of it.
At the mosque, Rahman said he can’t remember ever having a conversation with Mateen.
Mateen, he said, attended “sporadically” — frequently with his toddler son in tow — but his three sisters were regular faces, sometimes performing chores and cleaning the mosque.
If Mateen leaned toward an extremist version of Islam, he kept it from his imam, who wept as he began Sunday evening prayers at the mosque.
“There is nothing outside the door that says you can’t come in and worship God and be here and pray if you are gay,” Rahman said. And Rahman said he speaks out against terrorist groups at every gathering.
“They have hijacked our religion,” Rahman said. “They have caused more trouble for us than anything.”
Staff writers Daphne Duret and Bill DiPaolo and staff researcher Melanie Mena contributed to this story.