By Sheryl Estrada
Omar Mateen, who officials say shot and killed 49 people and injured 53 others on Sunday morning at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, was himself gay, according to a former classmate.
The Palm Beach Post reported Tuesday a former classmate who attended Indian River State College police academy in Fort Pierce, Fla. in 2006 with Mateen, said they would sometimes go to gay nightclubs and that Mateen asked him out romantically.
“We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer,” the former classmate, who asked his name not be used, told the Post.
The classmatebelieved Mateen was not open about being gay, and he was awkward, which made classmates feel sorry for him.
“He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him,” he said. “He was always socially awkward.”
Meanwhile, there have been reports of 29-year-old Mateen, who was bornin New York and the son of Afghan immigrants,attending Pulse many times over the past three years.
At least four regular customers at the nightclub said they had seen him there before, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“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,” Ty Smith said.
Smith said he saw Mateen “inside at least a dozen times.”
“We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times,” he said. “He told us he had a wife and child.”
Mateen reportedly would get drunk and talk about his father, who is anti-gay.
Kevin West, a regular at Pulse nightclub, told the Los Angeles Times Mateen messaged him on and off for a year before the shooting using a gay chat and dating app.
The two never met until West saw him at about 1 a.m. on the morning of the shooting. He noticed Mateen when he was dropping off a friend at the club. He was crossing the street wearing a dark cap and carrying a black cellphone.
“He walked directly past me. I said, ‘Hey,’ and he turned and said, ‘Hey,'” and nodded his head, West said. “I could tell by the eyes.”
Mateen’s ex-wife called him a violent and unstable homophobe. Former coworkers also said he was homophobic and a bigot. In avideo posted on Facebook Monday morning, Seddique Mateen said his son should not have murdered the nightclub goers because God will punish those involved in homosexuality.
Mateen’s father said in an interview with NBC News that his son recently saw two men kissing in Miami and was especially angered by the fact that his 3-year-old son had witnessed it as well.
“They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said, ‘Look at that. In front of my son, they are doing that,'” he said.
Mateen, who called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS during the massacre, was not under surveillance or investigation at the time of the attack.
Researchpublished in the April 2012 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that individuals who are hostile toward gays and hold strong homophobic views might themselves have undercover same-sex desires.And, the homophobia could also stem from parents with homophobic views.
“Sometimes people are threatened by gays and lesbians because they are fearing their own impulses, in a sense they ‘doth protest too much,'” co-author Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology,psychiatry and educationat the University of Rochester, told LiveScience. “In addition, it appears that sometimes those who would oppress others have been oppressed themselves, and we can have some compassion for them too, they may be unaccepting of others because they cannot be accepting of themselves.”
Gregory M. Herek, a researcher, author, and professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis, has conducted research on prejudice against sexual minorities.
“Understanding Mateen’s motives, of course, is important,” Herek wrote in an opinion piece for The Boston Globe. “But focusing solely on what went on in his mind, regardless of his intent, can divert us from considering how the attack has affected lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, not only in Orlando but across the country.
“This attack reinforces what LGBT people already knew that they remain stigmatized in American society and are ongoing targets for violence, harassment, and discrimination.”