UPDATE: In addition to the information below via the Orlando Sentinel, the LA Times is now reporting that Omar Mateen had an active account on gay dating app Jack’d.
Kevin West, a regular at Pulse, said he’d been messaging with Mateen off and on for a year, but that he’d never seen Mateen until the night of the shooting, early Sunday morning.
West had just dropped off a friend at the club when he recognized Mateen on the street from his Jack’d profile at around 1 a.m., just one hour before the attack began.
“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.”
No fewer that four regular customers of Pulse, the Orlando nightclub that was the scene of last weekend’s horrific attack, say they recall seeing the shooter, Omar Mateen, drinking at the bar in the past.
“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,” Ty Smith, who also uses the name Aries, told the Orlando Sentinel.
He added that he saw Mateen at the club dozens of times before last weekend, when Mateen murdered 49 people and injured another 53.
“We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times,” Smith said. “He told us he had a wife and child.”
Orlando Police say they do not have any information about these visits.
Another regular, Chris Callen, who performs under the name Kristina McLaughlin, told the Canadian press, “It’s the same guy. He’s been going to this bar for three years.”
Unclear in the reports is whether they think Mateen was there simply as a patron, or if he was possibly scoping out the scene of his future massacre.
Much ado has been made of the story that Mateen saw two men kissing in Miami a few months ago, and that the experience had shocked him in some way.
“That’s bullcrap, right there. No offence. That’s straight-up crap. He’s been around us,” Smith said Monday in an interview at the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida.
“Some of those people did a little more than (kiss) outside the bar…. He was partying with the people who supposedly drove him to do this?”
Neither Smith nor Callen said they could speculate on Mateen’s sexuality, but they were both doubtful of the version of the story put out by Mateen’s father.