ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — As thousands in Orlando turned out to mourn 49 people killed inside a gay nightclub, federal investigators examined possible motives for the gunman who committed the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The White House and the FBI said 29-year-old Omar Mateen, an American-born Muslim, appears to be a “homegrown extremist” who had touted support not just for the Islamic State, but other radical groups that are its enemies.
“So far, we see no indication that this was a plot directed from outside the United States, and we see no indication that he was part of any kind of network,” FBI Director James Comey said Monday. He said Mateen was clearly “radicalized,” at least in part via the internet.
Despite Mateen’s pledge of support to the Islamic State, other possible explanations emerged. His ex-wife said he suffered from mental illness. His Afghan-immigrant father suggested he may have acted out of anti-gay hatred, and said his son got angry recently about seeing two men kiss. But questions also emerged over whether Mateen was conflicted about his own sexuality.
Jim Van Horn, 71, said Mateen was a “regular” at the popular Pulse nightclub where he’d later take hostages and leave 49 dead.
“He was trying to pick up people. Men,” Van Horn told The Associated Press late Monday outside the Parliament House, another gay club.
Van Horn, a retired pharmacist, said he met Mateen once, and the younger man talked about his ex-wife. But Van Horn said his friends soon “told me they didn’t want me talking to him, because they thought he was a strange person.”
Van Horn acknowledged that he didn’t know Mateen well, but said he suspects that the massacre was less about Islamic extremism and more about a man conflicted about his sexuality.
“I think it’s possible that he was trying to deal with his inner demons, of trying to get rid of his anger of homosexuality,” said Van Horn, who lost three friends in the shooting. “It’s really confusing to me. Because you can’t change who you are. But if you pretend that you’re different, then you may shoot up a gay bar.”