This story was reported by Henry Pierson Curtis, Anthony M. DeStefano, Kevin Deutsch, Emily C. Dooley and Victor Manuel Ramos. It was written by Dooley.
The man who shot and killed 49 people early Sunday morning at the Orlando LGBT bar Pulse, may have also planned to attack other gay-friendly locations in and around the Orlando area, a federal law enforcement official said Monday.
The source said Omar Mir Seddique Mateen’s online research and social media activity showed an interest in LGBT clubs and destinations, suggesting he may have been planning to attack alternate locations instead of or in addition to the one he chose.
He also did online research into popular tourist destinations that are part of DisneyWorld’s sprawling properties in Florida, though it’s unclear whether he considered any part of the iconic theme park or its properties as a target.
“He did show an interest in other locations as potential targets,” the source said, speaking generally.
One potential target was the Revere at the M, a club that opened in December at a gay-friendly boutique hotel about eight miles from the shooting scene, the source said.
Late Sunday, Revere announced on its Facebook page that is was permanently closing and would only host private events and conferences. Calls to the club were answered with a busy signal.
A dancer at Revere was one of the victims killed at Pulse, the bar also said on its Facebook page.
Mateen, who lived in Westbury as a young child, worked for the security company G4S and had received firearms training.
The source said Mateen bought the weapons he used – an AR-15 assault rifle and a handgun – at the St. Lucie Shooting Center and had attempted to buy body armor before the attack.
The store’s owner Ed Henson said Monday that Mateen legally purchased the guns and had two security licenses — an armed one and an unarmed one. Henson said he was sorry this “evil person” bought the guns from his store
As the investigation into the worse mass shooting in the United States continued, law enforcement agencies were retracing Mateen’s final days and hours before he opened fire around 2 a.m. at the club during its popular Latin night event.
They seized computer hard drives and other electronics from his condo in Fort Pierce and at the homes of relatives in Port St. Lucie, said the federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation into Sunday’s shooting.
The shooter’s father, Seddique Mir Mateen, called his son’s massacre “the act of a terrorist” and apologized for his actions. “I condemn what he did,” he told reporters assembled outside his Port St. Lucie home. “I wish I did know that what he was doing. If I’d had catch him, I’d have arrested him myself.”
President Barack Obama called Mateen, who lived as a child in Flushing and Westbury, an example of “homegrown extremism.”
FBI Director James Comey on Monday said the FBI investigated the shooter in 2013 for 10 months after he expressed support for terrorism.
But his views were often at odds, like supporting both al-Qaida and its enemy Hezbollah.
On Sunday, Mateen made a 911 call during the attack, where he expressed loyalty to the Islamic State, solidarity with the brothers responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings and support of a suicide bomber who died in the name of the al-Nusra front, which is at odds with the Islamic State, Comey said.
The FBI chief said investigators followed him and reviewed some of his communications, but Mateen claimed he made the remarks in anger because co-workers were teasing and discriminating against him because he was Muslim, The Associated Press reported.
When asked if the FBI should have done anything differently, Comey said, “I don’t think so.”
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said an FBI briefing showed there were no ties from Mateen to ISIS and all evidence points to a classic “lone wolf.” Schumer, speaking Monday in Freeport, called on Congress to pass a law that would ban anyone under FBI investigation or on a terrorist watchlist from purchasing guns.
Meanwhile, the FBI continued to investigate Mateen’s links to known jihadists with ties to the Port St. Lucie and Orlando areas, including former associates of Moner Mohammad Abusalha, the first American-born terrorist to carry out a suicide bomb attack in Syria, the source said.
Abusalha also worshipped at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce where Mateen went several times a week, according to other worshippers and a law enforcement source.
Ahmed Khan recalled seeing Mateen come to the prayer center, often with a toddler in tote, who he said was his son. Mateen’s sisters, father and other relatives also regularly visited the center.
“He was devout, certainly,” said Khan, of Fort Pierce. “He often came to pray when he wasn’t working. He had his son with him. He seemed very peaceful.”
He added “He didn’t talk to people — just in and out for prayers. That’s it.”