The FBI on Wednesday urged members of the public who had contact with the Orlando shooter before Sunday’s terror attack to come forward.
“We need your help in developing the most complete picture of what the shooter did and why he did it,” FBI special agent Ron Hopper said in an afternoon news conference. “We want to hear from any member of the public who has had any involvement with the shooter. .. . No piece of information is too small.”
Hopper assured the public that any discussions will be kept confidential.
He encouraged anyone who had contact with the shooter, Omar Mateen, 29, to call 800-CALLFBI or go to tips.fbi.gov and fill out the form.
Hopper called the shooting “an act of violence born out of hate that inflicted terror on an entire community — I would call it a hate crime, I would call it terrorism — it’s both.”
Investigators are combing “everywhere we believe the shooter to have been in the coming days before this event — all digital, video, electronic evidence that we can. . . .”
Florida U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley said “we are talking to literally hundreds of people.”
Bentley said that “law enforcement is talking to everyone associated with the shooter — his family, his friends, people in businesses, anyone who fell within the ambit with what the shooter was doing in the months leading up to the crime.”
Bentley also urged members of the public to stop making threats to members of the Muslim community.
“Any threats like this detract from what we are doing in law enforcement,” Bentley said. “We want to spend one hundred percent of our time investigating the crime that occurred at the Pulse nightclub.”
Mateen, a New York-born Muslim man, killed 49 people and wounded 53 in the attack on Pulse.
The FBI is investigating reports that patrons reported seeing Mateen at a number of gay nightclubs in the region in recent years and specifically at Pulse within the last month.