The gunman who attacked a Florida LGBT nightclub had attended the club before the attack and had used a gay dating and chat app, witnesses said.
Kevin West, a regular at Pulse nightclub, said Omar Mateen messaged him on and off for a year before the shooting using the gay chat and dating app Jack’d. West was dropping off a friend at the club when he noticed Mateen – whom he knew by sight but not by name – crossing the street wearing a dark cap and carrying a black cellphone about 1 a.m., an hour before the shooting.
Orlando terror attack updates: Obama meets with victims' families in Orlando June 16, 2016, p.m.
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At least four regular customers of Pulse, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender nightclub where the massacre took place, told the Orlando Sentinel on Monday that they believed they had seen Mateen there before."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," said Ty Smith, who also uses the name Aries.
He saw Mateen at the club at least a dozen times, he said."We didn't really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times," Smith said.
"He told us he had a wife and child."As soon as West saw photos of Mateen released after the shooting, he said, he drove to his local police station, where officers summoned FBI officials, who showed him a photo of Mateen on a computer screen.“I said, ‘That’s him,’” West said, and turned over his phone and Jack’d log-in information to the FBI, which still had the phone late Monday, he said.
Investigators are looking at reports that Mateen visited gay clubs and was using gay dating apps, a law enforcement official said. Also Monday, officials said Mateen appeared to have been radicalized by Islamic extremists on the Internet but expressed sympathies with radical groups that violently oppose each other.
See more of our top stories on Facebook »On Sunday morning, Mateen told a 911 dispatcher that he was attacking Pulse on behalf of the leader of Islamic State, FBI Director James B. Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, Fla., was killed by a SWAT team and was among the 50 found dead at the site. But Mateen, who was born in New York, had also expressed solidarity with the 2013 Boston bombers and an American suicide bomber who belonged to an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria opposed to Islamic State, Comey said.
The FBI previously investigated Mateen, a security guard, for 11 months for telling co-workers in 2013 that he had relatives connected to Al Qaeda, the Sunni Muslim extremist group, while claiming he was a member of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia, Comey said. The FBI also briefly investigated Mateen in 2014 on suspicion of watching videos by Al Qaeda propagandist Anwar Awlaki and for attending a mosque in Florida with a man who later became a suicide bomber for Al Nusra Front in Syria, which also opposes Islamic State. Comey defended his agents’ work but said the agency would still conduct a review.“We know that this killing is upsetting to all Americans.We hope that our fellow Americans will not let fear become disabling,” Comey said.He added that fear “is what these savages want.”FBI agents scrambled Monday to recover data from Mateen’s electronic media — cellphones, computers and other devices — hoping to find clues to what sparked the massacre at the nightclub, according to current and former FBI officials.They have also obtained access to at least one email account, an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.Nothing has come up yet suggesting ties to terrorist groups, but the official cautioned that the investigation was in its early stages.No issues involving encrypted data -- a major stumbling block in the investigation into the San Bernardino attacks -- have emerged, the official said.