Many shocking details have emerged about the massacre in Orlando on Sunday, in which a gunman shot and killed 50 people at an LGBT club in the wee hours of the morning. But few are as surprising as this one: the shooter, Omar Mateen, may have been a closeted gay man.
Both Mateen's ex-wife Sitora Yusufiy and several eyewitnesses have come forward to corroborate the theory, explaining that Mateen was, in fact, a regular at Pulse nightclub, the very place he sprayed bullets, marking the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Some witnesses even claim he frequented gay dating apps like Grindr.
Mateen's first wife, Sitora Yusufiy, 27, whom he met online in 2009 and married soon after, told the Daily News Mateen was conflicted about his sexual identity throughout their marriage, though she fell short of saying he was gay or that he had come out to her. "When we had gotten married, he confessed to me about his past — that was recent at that time — and that he very much enjoyed going to clubs and the nightlife," Yusufiy said. "So, I feel like it's a side of him or a part of him that he lived but probably didn't want everybody to know about."
While Yusifiy is unsure of Mateen's tendencies, and the killer's father outright denies them, at least five people have come forward to claim that Mateen was a regular at Pulse and had expressed his interest in men for years.
Four people who regularly visited the gay nightclub told the Orlando Sentinel that they had seen Mateen there before. One person said he remembered Mateen at the club as long as three years ago. “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, a Pulse regular, told the Sentinel.
"He's a homosexual and he was trying to pick up men," said Jim Van Horn, another Pulse regular who says he's seen Mateen chatting with men at the club. "He would walk up to them and put his arm around them or something and maybe try to get them to dance a little bit or something and go over and buy them a drink." A third Pulse regular, Cord Cedena, vows that he's seen Mateen on gay dating app Grindr, but that he blocked the killer because he seemed "creepy."
Meanwhile, according to the Daily News, a former classmate in Omar Mateen’s 2006 police academy class said that Mateen even asked him out. “We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer,” the former classmate said.
There are many more reports consistent with this theory, from Omar's college days until just months before he committed the deadly massacre, pouring out, adding a new dimension to the tragedy. Thus far, Mateen's motive has been framed as Islamic radicalism more so than homophobia or self-hate. It will be interesting to see if these new reports will shift the dialogue.
(Photo: MySpace via AP)