The gunman who shot and killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, after getting upset over “seeing two gay men kissing,” was gay, a former classmate alleges.
The man, who wishes to stay anonymous, attended a police academy with Omar Mateen in 2006. He told The Palm Beach Post the attacker was gay, saying Mateen once 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,” the man said. “He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him. He was always socially awkward.”
The Los Angeles Times reported Mateen went to Pulse, the nightclub he attacked, at least a dozen times before the massacre.
“He walked directly past me. I said, ‘Hey,’ and he turned and said, ‘Hey,’” said Kevin West, a regular at the club, while recounting a brief encounter with Mateen. “I could tell by the eyes.”
"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," says another witness, Ty Smith.
Apart from attending the club, the suspected shooter may have also used several different gay dating apps, according to The Washington Post.
“He was open with his picture on the sites, he was easy to recognize,” said Cord Cedeno from Orlando, who also claims he was contacted by Mateen at least a year ago on a dating app.
An Orlando man told MSNBC's Chris Hayes he recognized Mateen from his photos on Grindr, Adam4Adam, and Jack'd over the last couple of years and at least two of the man's friends had been contacted by the gunman on the apps.
"He was very creepy in his messages, and I blocked him immediately," the man said.
Although FBI officials have not yet commented on the reports about Mateen’s interaction with the gay community prior to the rampage, the findings add a new dimension to the possible motive behind his actions.
The authorities are currently looking into the case to identify possible terrorist connections.
Mateen called 911 to pledge his allegiance to the Islamic State during the attack, a Middle-Eastern terrorist group that frequently releases videos of violence against homosexual men.