(CN) – The father of Omar Mateen, the man who carried out the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history, said his son was “very slick” about hiding his hatred.
Seddique Mateen said he “didn’t notice anything wrong” with his son Omar, hours before the 29-year-old drove to Orlando and stormed into a popular gay club with a rifle.
Omar allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group in a phone call to police during the massacre.
After executing 49 people at the gay nightclub Pulse early Sunday morning, the shooter was killed in a standoff with law enforcement. More than 50 others remain hospitalized.
“I wish there was something I could’ve done differently, [so] that this would not have happened,” Omar’s father said in an interview. “And those family that lost their loved ones. … I could’ve protected them.”
Seddique insisted Omar was not indoctrinated with anti-gay views through his family.
“I respect [gay people],” Seddique said. “Who am I to tell them? I am nobody.”
Seddique, who described himself as a financial adviser, invited Courthouse News into the home, where he recounted how he and Omar had been living in South Florida since roughly 1991.
He said he had immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan in the 1980s amid the Soviet-Afghan War.
Parked outside his house Monday afternoon were a red Mercedes sports car and a BMW. Children’s toys were baking in the 93 degree heat on the doorstep as a gaggle of reporters inched their way around to speak with him.
Seddique repeatedly referred to his son as “very slick”
“I always taught him the right way. The right thing. And I wish I did catch him, which I said. But I’m sorry I wasn’t able … because I think he was like very slick,” Seddique claimed. “I always said that if I did notice something wrong, I would report [it] to law enforcement. I would’ve arrested him myself.”
Omar was born in New York in 1986. He grew up on Florida’s Treasure Coast and attended high school in Martin County, an area populated predominantly by white middle-class families, where country music, beach bars and bowling are favorite pastimes.
Omar’s high school classmates reportedly recalled how Omar had a disturbingly gleeful reaction when teachers put on the news during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. According to The Washington Post, Omar had clashed with his classmates after showing jubilation over the 9/11 attacks, and he was disciplined by school officials. His father picked him up from school that day and slapped him in public, one classmate told the Washington Post.
Indian River Community College confirmed that Omar had studied criminal justice there, and received his degree in 2006.
He married Sitora Yusufiy in 2009, but she left him after he allegedly became physically abusive. Yusufiy told various media outlets that she feared for her safety on account of Omar’s unpredictable, rage-filled behavior.
Her former father-in-law said Omar later remarried and acquired an apartment in Fort Pierce, where he was raising his toddler.
Omar and the child had been stopping by Seddique’s home two or three times a week in the time leading up to the massacre, Seddique said. Omar was stationed nearby as a security guard for the Jupiter-based company G4S.
On the day before the massacre, when he last saw Omar, Seddique claimed, Omar’s behavior was unremarkable. The suspected shooter was going about his business, and he made no special arrangements for his child before departing for Orlando, Seddique told Courthouse News.
The father’s portrait of Omar stands in stark contrast to the accounts given by one of Omar’s former co-workers at G4S.
The co-worker, Daniel Gilroy, described Omar as an unstable man who regularly made discriminatory comments.
“I quit because everything he said was toxic,” Gilroy told Florida Today. “And the company wouldn’t do anything. This guy was unhinged and unstable. He talked of killing people.”
G4S issued a statement on Monday in response to the shooting.
“Omar Mateen was employed by G4S at a residential community in South Florida and was off-duty at the time of the incident,” the statement reads. “Mateen was subject to detailed company screening when he was recruited in 2007 and re-screened in 2013 with no adverse findings. He was also subject to checks by a U.S. law enforcement agency with no findings reported to G4S.
“G4S has no record of any complaint by Mr. Gilroy about Mr. Mateen.”
Authorities with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed that the firearms Omar used in the massacre had been purchased legally, within two weeks of the attack.
Though the FBI had interviewed Omar in 2013 and 2014 over his suspected ties to Islamic extremism, Omar apparently had nothing on his record that prevented him from purchasing guns.
In a Monday briefing, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that Omar had been under investigation.
“We first became aware of him in May of 2013,” Comey said. “He was working as a contract security guard at a local court house. He made some statements that were inflammatory and contradictory that concerned his coworkers about terrorism. First, he claimed family connections to al-Qaida.”
Omar allegedly said he hoped law enforcement would raid his apartment and assault his wife and child so that he could martyr himself, Comey explained.
“When this was reported to us, the FBI’s Miami office opened a preliminary investigation, and over the next 10 months we attempted to determine whether he was possibly a terrorist … something we do in hundreds and hundreds of cases all across the country,” Comey said.
“He admitted making the statements that his co-workers reported, but explained that he did it in anger because he thought his co-workers were discriminating against him and teasing him because he was Muslim.”
The FBI closed the investigation, but Omar came back onto the bureau’s radar in 2014 when investigators learned that he had attended the same Fort Pierce mosque as a man who had traveled to Syria to blow himself up on the Al Nusra front.
The FBI interviewed Omar again but declined to pursue any charges against him, concluding that he did not have “significant contact” with the suicide bomber.
Seddique maintained that Omar never showed signs of impending violence, but went on to recount the widely cited incident where Omar purportedly became upset when he witnessed two men kissing at a Miami concert, several months before the Sunday massacre.
Omar was shocked upon seeing the two men making out and “taking care of each other,” as Seddique phrased it.
He said Omar became visibly upset but did not express overt indications that he was contemplating violence.
The father said that although prior to the shooting, he had been aware Omar owned a firearm, he was not concerned in part due to Omar’s job as a security officer.
“I don’t agree and don’t forgive him for what he did,” Seddique insisted.
Seddique has been the longtime host of a YouTube talk show, “Durand Jirga,” wherein he discusses Afghani politics.
Photo caption 1:
Seddique Mir Mateen speaks to reporters about his son. Omar Mateen, who died in a gun battle early Sunday with a SWAT team, after killing 49 Orlando gay nightclub. (AP Photo/APTN)
Additional photographs by Izzy Kapnick.
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