ORLANDO (ChurchMilitant.com) - Omar Mateen, the Afghani gunman who killed 49 people at the Orlando gay nightclub Sunday morning, may have been gay.
According to witnesses who spoke to the Orlando Sentinel, Mateen had regularly frequented Pulse over the past three years, and had used gay dating apps to contact other homosexuals.
At least four regular patrons of Pulse said they had often seen Mateen at the club with a male friend. "Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself," said Ty Smith, "and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent."
"We didn't really talk to him a lot," Smith added, "but I remember him saying things about his dad at times. He told us he had a wife and child."
When asked what they thought about reports that Mateen had grown enraged over seeing two men kissing in public in Miami several weeks before the shooting, Smith responded, "That's bullcrap, right there. No offense. That's straight-up crap. He's been around us."
He continued, "Some of those people did a little more than [kiss] outside the bar. ... He was partying with the people who supposedly drove him to do this?"
Samuel King, a former classmate of Mateen's and a self-professed drag queen as well as openly gay, said Mateen had shown friendliness toward his lifestyle. "He was a jokester and at the time didn't have an issue with the LGBT community," he remarked.
King, who worked with openly gay employees at Ruby Tuesday's at the time, reacted with surprise at Mateen's Sunday attack. "That's the thing that's pinning me to the wall the most, that it was a gay nightclub," King commented. "Because he would come into the [the restaurant] and laugh with us. He might've even sat down at the bar and had a drink and laughed with the bartenders, knowing that they were lesbians."
King says Mateen probably even went to a drag show with him and his friends on one occasion.
Kevin West, another regular at Pulse, told the Los Angeles Times that Mateen had used a gay dating app to send him messages over the course of a year. Although they had never met, West recognized him Sunday when Mateen entered the club an hour before the shooting.
"He walked directly past me," West said. "I said, 'Hey,' and he turned and said, 'Hey,'" nodding his head. "I could tell by the eyes."
Chris Callen, a drag dancer who performs under the alias Kristina McLaughlin at Pulse, told The Canadian Press Mateen had "been going to this bar for at least three years."
"He was very friendly when we said 'hi,'" Callen said. "He didn't seem like the kind of guy who just did what he did. It makes no sense. My partner said that he was very nice [and seemed] comfortable."
Callen explained that they kept their distance from Mateen after he exploded over a religion joke told by a friend. "He ended up pulling a knife," Callen commented. "He said if he ever messed with him again, you know how it'll turn out."
"(He'd get) really, really drunk," Smith commented of Mateen's behavior at the club. "He couldn't drink when he was at home — around his wife, or family. His father was really strict. ... He used to bitch about it."
A former police academy classmate of Mateen's told the Palm Beach Post that the gunman was gay but not public about it. "We went to a few gay bars with him," the classmate said, who requested to remain anonymous, "and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer."
"He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him," the former classmate added. "He was always socially awkward."
Another homosexual told MSNBC that he and at least two of his friends had been contacted by Mateen through a gay dating app over the last few years. "He was very creepy in his messages, and I blocked him immediately," he said.
Mateen's ex- wife says although he did not provide clear indications, she allowed for the possibility that he may have been gay.
"When we had gotten married, he confessed to me about his past ... that he very much enjoyed going to clubs and the nightlife, and there was a lot of pictures of him," Sitora Yusufiy told CNN Tuesday. "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."
And her fiancé speaking on Yusufiy's behalf told a Brazilian TV station that Mateen had "gay tendencies" and that "the FBI asked her not to tell this to the American media." He also claimed Mateen's father had called his son gay in front of his wife.