In the immediate aftermath of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, described by the president as “an act of terror and an act of hate,” there was finger-pointing and gloating, as well as disparaging remarks about religion, calls for more gun control and calls for more guns. But in the end, 50 people are dead as a result of one deranged man’s hate and intolerance.
The massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando over the weekend was committed by a New York-born 29-year-old, whose ex-wife called an unstable, violent homophobe and who former co-workers said often talked about killing people and had voiced hatred of gays, Blacks, women and Jews.
While the suspect, Omar Mateen, was Muslim and may have pledged allegiance to a radical terrorist group that uses Islam to justify its ideology, this incident was not about religion. It was about one man’s hatred, which in this case manifested from his disgust with gay culture.
In an interview with NBC News, Mateen’s father said his son had recently seen two men kissing in Miami and was especially angered by the fact that his 3-year-old son had witnessed it too. “They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said, ‘Look at that. In front of my son, they are doing that,’” Seddique Mir Mateen said.
In an interview with CNN, Mateen’s ex-wife Sitora Yusufiy said she had to leave her husband after only a few months because of his behavior toward her. Yusufiy described Mateen as verbally and physically abusive without warning or provocation, even abusing her when she was sleeping. He also forbid her from contacting her family and forced her to hand over her paycheck.
Yusufiy also said Mateen had never expressed sympathies for terrorist organizations, but “there were definitely moments when he’d express his intolerance toward homosexuals.”
A few years later, however, Mateen had made comments to co-workers suggesting he had terrorist ties and was brought to the attention of the FBI, who investigated him in 2013 and 2014. The second time, the FBI was investigating a connection between Mateen and another Florida man who traveled to Syria to become a suicide bomber.
Despite interviews with Mateen, surveillance and witness interviews, the FBI found no evidence of terrorist links and ended its investigation. As a result, Mateen was still permitted to apply and receive a concealed weapons permit and legally purchase firearms. He reportedly purchased the assault rifle used in the nightclub just a few days before the shootings.
While many were quick to use the incident as further condemnation of Muslims and Islam in general, leaders including President Barack Obama and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton took a more tempered response.
“We have reached no definitive conclusions,” Obama said at a news conference. “What is clear is that he was a person filled with hate.”
While some were already pointing fingers, Clinton’s initial statement was to offer her thoughts to those affected “as we wait for more information.” She later said “we need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad” and again addressed the “need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals.”
Obama, who described the shootings as “an act of terror and an act of hate,” added that events such as these are a “sobering reminder that attacks on any American, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, is an attack on all of us.”