Omar Mateen raged against the “filthy ways of the west” and spoke of “Islamic State vengeance” during the slaughter, a U.S. senator said.
JENSEN BEACH, Fla. — As he carried out a massacre Sunday, Omar Mateen checked Facebook to see if he was trending.
During his three-hour assault on Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Mateen paused to search “Pulse Orlando” and “shooting,” a U.S. senator said.
Mateen used multiple Facebook accounts to write posts and make searches about the Islamic State group. “Now taste the Islamic state vengeance,” he declared, denouncing “the filthy ways of the west.”
In his posts, Mateen called on the United States and Russia to stop the bombing campaign against the Islamic State group, the extremists who control parts of Syria and Iraq, pledged allegiance to the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and said, “May Allah accept me,” Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin wrote in a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive.
“You kill innocent women and children by doing us airstrikes,” Mateen wrote, according to the letter. “Now taste the Islamic state vengeance.” In what Johnson described as the gunman’s final post, he wrote, “In the next few days you will see attacks from the Islamic state in the usa.”
Johnson, a Republican who leads the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote in his letter to Zuckerberg that officials had found “five Facebook accounts were apparently associated with Omar Mateen.” The letter asked Facebook to share all data on accounts tied to the gunman.
Mateen frequently used Facebook to search for information on law-enforcement agencies and terrorist groups, Johnson wrote.
Johnson clarified that Facebook isn’t a target of any inquiry but asked for the information, and for Facebook officials to attend a briefing with committee staff, no later than June 29.
A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.
Authorities and witnesses say Mateen opened fire with a Sig Sauer MCX rifle and Glock 17 pistol inside Pulse about 2 a.m. Sunday. He spent about three hours inside the club with the dead, wounded and trapped before police finally burst into the club and killed him at about 5 a.m.
Police had already stated that Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group during a call with authorities from inside the club, and local station News 13 said he also called the station and made a statement about the group.
Mateen was likely inspired by Islamic extremism, according to the FBI and President Obama, who went to Orlando on Thursday. But there is no indication he acted on orders from anyone abroad.
More information came to light Thursday about Mateen’s troubled work and school history, and about his actions leading up to the slaughter Sunday that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded.
In the weeks before the shooting, Mateen, 29, went to a gun store in Jensen Beach and tried to buy high-grade body armor and at least 1,000 rounds of ammunition, said a co-owner of the store, Robert Abell.
He said the store, Lotus Gunworks, did not stock the type of armor sought by Mateen, who lived nearby, and a salesman grew suspicious of Mateen’s behavior during a visit that lasted perhaps five minutes, including a telephone conversation he conducted in a foreign language, and refused to sell him bulk ammunition.
“Something in his gut told him it was wrong,” Abell said of the employee. He said the store contacted the FBI but had no information by which to identify the customer; only after the killings did an employee recognize Mateen.
“Unfortunately, nobody connected the dots, and he slipped under the cracks, and this is where we’re at now,” Abell said.
School records released under public-records requests showed Mateen was frequently in trouble as a child and struggled to keep pace academically, especially in the early grades. He was disciplined 31 times in elementary and middle school, with one report when he was in third grade including a sweeping list of concerns.
He was “constantly moving, verbally abusive, rude, aggressive,” the report said, often put his hands on other students, disrupted class and engaged in “much talk about violence & sex.”
Most Read Nation & World Stories
- As thousands of athletes get coronavirus tests, nurses wonder: What about us?
- Sports on TV & radio: Local listings for Seattle games and events
- Trump may be coming to terms with loss he won't acknowledge
- Two-dose coronavirus vaccine regimens will make it harder to inoculate America
- An unusual snack for cows, a powerful fix for climate
In high school, he was repeatedly suspended, for a total 48 days, in a span of less than two years, and attended three schools. The last suspension came two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Martin County School District found no detailed records of what prompted the penalty, said Kim Sabol, a lawyer for the district, but former classmates have told news organizations that he celebrated the attacks, sparking conflicts with other students.
In May 2001, when he was 14, he was suspended twice for fighting, and one of those times he was arrested, according to personnel records from his later work for the Florida Department of Corrections. In a note explaining the incident, he wrote he was not taken to jail, and “the charge of battery was adjudicated and the charge of disturbing school function was dropped.”
From October 2006 to April 2007, Mateen worked for the Department of Corrections as a corrections- officer trainee, earning $1,123.35 every two weeks, according to state records. He was dismissed, but the records do not say why, except that it was not for misconduct.
He worked for a private security company, where, according to law-enforcement officials and a former co-worker, he talked of killing people and claimed to support or belong to Islamist extremist groups. He also expressed hatred of gay people.
Federal law-enforcement officials said Thursday the FBI is increasingly skeptical of reports that Mateen was gay but “closeted,” that he had been visiting gay clubs or that he had used gay dating apps. The bureau has recovered the Samsung phone he used the night of the attack and is trying to retrieve data from it.
Investigators believe his wife, Noor Zahi Salman, drove Mateen to Pulse within a week or two of the shooting, apparently to assess the target, the officials said. She has told agents she tried to talk her husband out of mounting an attack, and the Justice Department says it is not clear if she will face criminal charges.
Officials and witnesses have said that during the nightclub siege, Mateen, the New York-born son of Afghan immigrants, declared allegiance to al-Baghdadi.
Officials say he was influenced by radical propaganda he found online but so far they have found no direct connection to any larger organization.