Orlando shooter Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people inside a gay nightclub early Sunday morning, was gay, both his ex-wife and a former classmate have reportedly claimed.
Initial reports indicated only religious motives—he had already been investigated by the FBI on two separate occasions, in 2013 and 2014, for alleged links to extremism. He also placed a 911 call mid-attack to pledge his allegiance to ISIS, and appeared extremely intolerant of gay men—his father told reporters hours after the massacre that his son had recently been angered by the sight of two men kissing.
ISIS later claimed responsibility for his actions, though they might regret it now: New reports suggest Mateen was himself gay, or at least an active participant in the Orlando gay scene.
Mateen’s former classmate, who was not named in the story, tells the paper Mateen asked him on a date when they were both students at the Indian River Community College police academy in 2006. His account, via the Palm Beach Post:
He said Mateen asked him out romantically.
“We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer,” he said.
He believed Mateen was gay, but not open about it. Mateen was awkward, and for a while the classmate and the rest in the group of friends felt sorry for him.
“He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him,” he said. “He was always socially awkward.”
Mateen was married at least once, to a woman named Sitora Yusufiy, who said Sunday that he was unstable and abusive during their brief marriage. Yusufiy, who is now dating a Brazilian man, also sat for an interview with Brazilian TV Monday. Speaking in Portuguese, her boyfriend said in the interview that she had described Mateen as having “gay tendencies” and said his dad had called him gay in front of her on several occasions.
The boyfriend also said Yusufiy told the FBI her ex-husband was unstable and that she did not believe he was part of a terrorist group.
“The FBI asked her not to tell this to the American media,” he claimed.
Their accounts echoed others who came forward Monday saying Mateen was part of the gay scene. Mateen was a regular at Pulse, the Orlando nightclub he attacked Sunday, patrons say—as often as twice a month. While he was there, he spoke of a wife and children and would often get so drunk he had to be escorted out of the club.
“He’s been going to this bar for at least three years,” Pulse performer Chris Callen told the Canadian Press.
Mateen also reportedly chatted with gay man online. One man, Kevin West, tells the Los Angeles Times he talked with Mateen over the gay dating app Jack’d on and off for about a year. He says he never met Mateen in person, but believes they passed each other on the street outside Pulse the night of 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 cellphone about 1 a.m., an hour before the shooting.
“He walked directly past me. I said, ‘Hey,’ and he turned and said, ‘Hey,’” and nodded his head, West said. “I could tell by the eyes.”
“If he was gay, why would he do something like this?” he said.