Tuesday June 14, 2016 – Authorities believe the gunman who killed 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub conducted surveillance trips at both the club and a Disney entertainment and shopping complex this month, a law enforcement official said Tuesday.
Omar Mir Seddique Mateen’s visits at Pulse and Disney Springs happened between June 1 and June 6, said the official, who has knowledge of the investigation. The number of visits to each venue was not specified.
The dates coincided with Gay Days 2016 celebrations taking place at Walt Disney World and other Orlando locations between May 31 and June 6.
Investigators believe the visits were intended to surveil the locations, based on information learned in interviews.
The visits also came in the same time period when Mateen was purchasing the weapons used in Sunday morning’s nightclub attack.
The day before that rampage — the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history — Mateen spent several hours at Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney, law enforcement officials said. Authorities said they believe Mateen was alone at that time.
Disney security officials have told the FBI they believe that Mateen made another visit to Disney World on April 26 to conduct reconnaissance, the law enforcement official said.
The FBI is investigating that possibility.
Investigators don’t know whether Mateen’s wife, who was with him on the Disney World visit, knew or suspected at the time about her husband’s intent, the official said.
The FBI has seized documents from Mateen’s home as well as items from the homes of his parents, sister and brother-in-law, the law enforcement official said.
The items included a Dell computer, a smartphone, a digital camera and related media.
Mateen’s phone was recovered at Pulse. FBI Director James Comey would not say Tuesday whether authorities have accessed the phone.
To some, Mateen was angry and homophobic, reportedly spewing outrage at the sight of two gay men kissing.
But he was also a friendly and familiar face at the gay club he eventually terrorized, killing 49 people.
Chris Callen, who worked at Pulse as a performer, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper he had seen Mateen dozens of times at the club. According to Callen’s estimate, Mateen visited Pulse twice a month over a period of three years.
“He was very friendly when we said, ‘Hi.’ He didn’t seem like the kind of guy who just did what he did. It makes no sense,” Callen said.
“My partner said that he was very nice (and seemed) comfortable.”
Pulse regular Kevin West told the Los Angeles Times
that Mateen messaged him on a gay dating app several times in the year before the attack.
But that picture doesn’t match up easily with accounts from colleagues who said Mateen was known to make anti-gay remarks frequently.
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