Showing posts with label Orlando. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Orlando. Show all posts

December 20, 2016

Relatives of the Pulse Shooting Victims Suing Facebook, Twitter, Google

Relatives of three people killed in the June shooting attack at an Orlando nightclub sued Facebook, Twitter, and Google's YouTube Monday, accusing the social media sites of recklessly allowing ISIS to use them for recruiting terrorists.

Without them, "the explosive growth if ISIS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible," said their lawyer, Keith Altman of Southfield, Michigan.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court by family members of Tevin Crosby, Javier Jorge-Reyes, and Juan Guerrero. They were among 49 people killed when Omar Mateen opened fire inside Orlando's pulse nightclub on June 12. Mateen was killed by responding police.

The relatives say the social media companies have for years provided ISIS with accounts to use their networks "as a tool for spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds, and attracting new recruits."

The companies are well aware of the problem, the lawsuit says, but have done little to stop it.

Their complaint, filed in federal court in Michigan where some of the family members live, quotes Twitter founder Biz Stone says saying "if you want to create a platform that allows for the freedom of expression for hundreds of millions of people around the world, you really have to take the good with the bad."

They claim the companies could easily block known ISIS recruiters from simply opening new accounts after they are discovered and shut down. It also says the companies place ads on the ISIS postings, profiting from terrorist messages.
The FBI has said that Mateen was radicalized in part through the Internet, and he pledged allegiance to ISIS during a lull in the shooting spree.

But investigators have said he also praised other terror groups, claimed his had family connections to al Qaeda, and said he was a member of Hezbollah, a bitter enemy of ISIS.

Altman filed a similar lawsuit in June on behalf of the family of an American student killed during the November 2015 terror attack in Paris.

But in January, a lawsuit against Twitter brought the widow of an American killed in Jordan in an ISIS attack on a police training center was dismissed. The judge said such lawsuits are barred by a federal law, the Communications Decency Act, which provides that web sites cannot be held legally responsible for the content posted by their users.

Legal experts said the latest lawsuit will face a similar hurdle.

In response to the earlier lawsuits, the companies said their rules make clear that violent threats and the promotion of terrorism deserve no place on their platforms and said the suits were without merit.


September 23, 2016

Omar Mateen Went into Pulse to kill Gays Like Him to Impress Gay Hating Dad

Crime Watch Daily has exclusive new insight into Omar Mateen, who shot up an Orlando nightclub, killing 49 people. Mateen's ex-wife sits down to tell her story to Crime Watch Daily's new special correspondent, Kim Goldman.
Sitora Yusufiy has found peace of mind and a new life in pristine Boulder, Colorado, but one thing she’s never able to escape is her association to the man who committed the worst mass shooting in modern American history. Mass-murderer Omar Mateen stormed into popular Orlando, Florida gay nightclub Pulse on June 12 and gunned down 49 innocent souls, wounding 53 others. A bullet-riddled Mateen goes to his grave in a shootout with police SWAT teams. 
Was the New York-born Muslim actually an ISIS sympathizer hell-bent on a jihadi one-way ticket to martyrdom? A self-hating gay man? Or something else?

"He never was sexually interested," said Sitora Yusufiy.

Now finally the one person who wants to set the record straight on what she believes is the motive behind the most horrific mass shooting in modern American history.

 "When I heard that he pledged to ISIS, I immediately know that was nonsense, because I knew Omar," said Yusufiy.

Sitora Yusufiy believes her ex-husband was gay and continually tormented by what she calls his homophobic father, Seddique Mateen. Sitora says Omar lived life in the shadows.
Yusufi tells Crime Watch Daily she is absolutely adamant her ex's pledge to ISIS in the midst of the horror was a ruse. Sitora says he was really just out to win the approval of his dad, who often publicly disparaged gays.
Crime Watch Daily went to Seddique Mateen’s home to ask him about his former daughter-in-law’s claims, but he did not want to talk to us.

Sitora claims much of Mateen's anger came from what she describes as his turbulent relationship with what she calls his homophobic father, who Sitora claims often taunted him about being gay.
Sitora says living a lie triggered the rage in her husband, and before his now-infamous attack, that rage was often directed at her.
Sitora tells Kim Goldman she became a virtual hostage in her own home. Her worried parents drove to Florida to check on her. It was time to get her out. They drove off together after a confrontation with Omar, and Sitora got an emergency ticket to New Jersey the next day.
Sitora now reveals Mateen actually tried to reconnect not long ago. The terror hit her all over again. Sitora says she has never looked back. 
But now for the first time, she is sharing a painful secret: She was once pregnant with Omar Mateen's child. It's a secret she's carried for seven long years. 
"He was happy about it but I told him that if he wanted to make things work, he had to find the courage to come to Jersey to apologize, to do whatever it takes to win my family and myself back, and he never did," said Sitora. "He never made an effort to do that."
Sitora says she made the difficult choice to terminate the pregnancy. 
But out of ashes of tragedy rose a resilient Sitora. The portrait artist has rebuilt her life and is happily married, and the couple is now expecting their first child. 
As for Omar Mateen's father, in recent interviews he has condemned his son's actions, calling what he did an "act or terror." Seddique Mateen has also been adamant that he does not believe his son was gay.

June 30, 2016

If Omar Mateen Was a Closeted Gay Muslim The Narrative Changes, Does it Matter?

Image result for omar mateen gay

If Omar Mateen was indeed a closeted gay man, the massacre’s initial symbolism as an Islamist homophobic attack has been uncomfortably overtaken by a revenge narrative. Tel Aviv’s LGBT community has been there before.

Seven years ago, a masked gunman walked into the Barnoar, a center for LGBT youth in Tel Aviv, and killed three people. For four years, the incident was one of Israel’s biggest unsolved mysteries and an open wound for the LGBT community. It became a rallying cry for gay rights and acceptance. But in 2013, police identified a suspect and a sordid story unfolded: The 50-year-old head of Barnoar had allegedly had a relationship with a 15-year-old whose relatives were suspected in the shooting. Police called it an act of revenge. 
Suddenly, the symbol of an arbitrary anti-gay attack was called into question. The Israeli LGBT community was rattled. It was no longer clear what, if anything, the Barnoar murders stood for. 

The massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando may be following a similarly confusing, albeit condensed, trajectory. Within hours, politicians were angling to control the narrative: Republicans yelled “Islamic extremism”; a disturbingly self-congratulatory Donald Trump doubled down on his anti-Muslim immigration ban. Democrats channeled public anger over lenient gun laws into dramatic action on the House floor – literally. The LGBT community and allies gathered at vigils across the country and reminded Americans that we are still the most targeted group for hate crimes. 

And now, several weeks later, more details are emerging that may scramble that picture. It appears that Omar Mateen, the 29-year-old Afghani-American killer, may have been a closeted gay man who frequented Pulse, had a presence on gay hookup sites, and, as alleged in a recent interview with Univision, possibly perpetrated the attack as an act of revenge on an HIV-positive partner. (FBI investigators said recently that they have not been able to substantiate those claims.) 

Does this allegation matter in how we think about Orlando? Should it? If the claims of Mateen’s personal connection are verified, does it negate his pledge to ISIS made in a phone call to police during the standoff? And how are we to reconcile the political motive he gave for the attack in that call – the United States’ ongoing military campaign in Afghanistan – with a potential personal motive that may involve internalized homophobia? With so few concrete details, is it even responsible for us to form an opinion at this point?

As a journalist who jumped into the fray shortly after the shooting and made broad statements about Islamic extremism, gun control and homophobia in the United States, it’s uncomfortable to see new evidence challenge what we all thought were the broader political questions at stake. The new information about Mateen does not make those questions obsolete, but it does push them to the sideline a bit, whether we like it or not.

When a revenge narrative creeps in, it allows people to dismiss larger social and political contexts. As Tel Aviv’s Barnoar example demonstrated, a symbol deflates when the facts become murkier and no longer adhere to a clear-cut narrative of hate. One Israeli activist called the Barnoar revelations “embarrassing” for the LGBT community; another told me that it required communal introspection. “The subject puts the spotlight on the dark side of the [LGBT] community,” she said. Both agreed Barnoar is still a symbol, but a complicated one. 

In the end, the same may be true of Orlando. That massacre is still a reflection of U.S. foreign policy, religiously-sowed hatred and America’s rampant, unregulated gun culture. But a narrative that also involves an individual’s psychosis makes it easier for politicians, in particular, to ignore those hard questions. Mateen’s personal demons, unfortunately, may give Americans permission to avoid facing our own.

Which is why it felt necessary to respond to Orlando right away. In anger and disbelief and confusion, those of us who weighed in tried to make sense of what happened by facing its uncomfortable implications in hopes that it would lead to important conversations about problems that need to be fixed. We grappled with the issues that appeared to be at play. And the result of these conversations is that tragedies often become symbols which bring us together and help us start to heal.  

But the responsibility of journalists – and everyone, really – is to revisit and revise our assessments as new facts come to light. Symbols can be therapeutic and empowering, as Barnoar was initially for the Israeli LGBT community, but we have to be careful about how we apply them. And we have to accept that tragedies can point to many social as well as personal problems and mean multiple things at the same time. Ultimately, they may not be perfect symbols. It will likely be a while before we have clarity on Orlando. 

But that doesn’t mean it can’t inspire real change now: After Barnoar, a number of public figures in Israel came out, and increased communal solidarity and awareness led to pressure on politicians that resulted in some legal gains for LGBT Israelis. In the United States, one promising development in the wake of the Orlando massacre is the momentum within the LGBT community is collectively taking on gun control with the skills and infrastructure we developed while successfully campaigning for same-sex marriage. 

Regardless of what we end up knowing about Mateen – if we ever know the whole story – and however complex the narrative ultimately is, we can still choose to channel the pain and symbolism of Orlando into constructive action. 

Brian Schaefer
Haaretz Contributor
read more:

Gay Men Chased from Their Homes After Signing Memorial Book on Orlando Victims


Image result for ivory coast gay men

Signing condolences to
the family of victims of the Orlando Massacre above.

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- Gay men in Ivory Coast say they've been assaulted and forced to flee their homes after the U.S. Embassy published a photo of them signing a condolence book for victims of this month’s/// killings at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
The photo, published on the embassy's website, shows the faces of six men with the caption "LGBTI community signing the condolence book." It was taken at the embassy on June 16, the same day Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan and other officials signed the book in honor of the 49 people killed in the Orlando attack.

The photo has been widely shared on social media and two of the men said that in the days after it was published an angry mob punched and kicked them while shouting anti-gay slurs. The men spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for their safety.

Four of the six men, including the two attacked, said they have fled their homes under pressure from family and friends who had been unaware of their sexual orientation.
The men said they were not contacted before the photo was published. However the U.S. embassy did contact the heads of three Ivory Coast organizations that advocate for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, according to press officer Elizabeth Ategou. Those activists gave their approval, but they were not in the photo or at the embassy event.

Ategou said the embassy "deeply regrets that any individuals were attacked based on any kind of orientation they might have." She said the embassy was in contact with the men and encouraged them to report the attacks to police.

The head of one gay rights group who approved the photo, and who also insisted on anonymity for his safety, said he would not have approved it had he known those pictured would be identified so explicitly as members of the "LGBTI community."
The photo remained on the embassy's website Wednesday. Ategou said the embassy had received no requests to take it down.

Same-sex relations are not a crime in Ivory Coast, but there are no legal protections for sexual minorities. In January 2014, a mob ransacked the Abidjan headquarters of the country’s most prominent gay rights organization.

The U.S. Embassy in Abidjan has strengthened ties with the country’s LGBT activists following an Obama administration memorandum in 2011 that empowered "all agencies engaged abroad" to promote and protect the human rights of sexual minorities.

June 28, 2016

Little Marco Could Make Hillary President {Up to Young Dem, Ind., LGBT}


Marco Rubio says he decided to run for re-election because it will be imperative to have people like him in the U.S. Senate if Hillary Clinton is elected president.

“There’s [a] role for the Senate that could end up being its most important in the years to come: the Constitutional power to act as a check and balance on the excesses of a president.”

But it is worth asking: Does Rubio’s decision to run make it more likely Clinton will become president?

It’s easy to envision a scenario in which it does. Eagerness to drive a political stake through Rubio’s heart could increase Democratic turnout in Florida, throwing the most important swing state — and therefore the election — to Clinton.

Think about it. Democrats hardly would be whipped into a frenzy by a desire to defeat, say, Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Most voters probably still are fuzzy at best on who, exactly, Lopez-Cantera is. But Rubio? He’s become a high-profile target.

The wish to stick it to Rubio also plausibly would be a better election-day mobilizer than any positive feeling toward either Rep. Patrick Murphy or Rep. Alan Grayson, who are battling it out to be the Democratic senatorial nominee.

Rubio’s insinuation that the Orlando massacre influenced his decision to seek re-election only heightens Democratic anger toward him. Before, the biggest knock on Rubio was that he was a slacker who couldn’t be bothered to show up to work in the Senate. Damaging, yes, but not something to make Democrats get out and vote.

Now, though, Rubio is the hypocrite who steadfastly has opposed LGBT equality and commonsense gun control yet has the gall to imply he’s running in response to the assault-weapon massacre perpetrated at a gay night club?

How epically self-serving.

Rubio’s anti-LGBT record is exactly the kind of issue that could motivate young Democrats and independents who otherwise might have stayed home to make the effort to vote. As a group, they might not even have been that enamored of Clinton. But if they take the trouble to vote against Rubio in remembrance of Orlando, they might just vote for Clinton while they’re at it.

For Clinton to win in November, she’ll need a big turnout of Democrats in the Orlando area — precisely the area that ought to be most offended by Rubio’s decision to use the Pulse horror as his excuse to run. Democratic turnout in South Florida also is a key, and that’s also an LGBT-friendly venue.

Plus, Rubio’s flip-flop on immigration is a double-whammy in those two regions. Not only does it anger Hispanics who feel he stabbed them in the back by abandoning immigration reform, it angers those who remember that gay Hispanics were targeted in the Pulse attack.

Current polls show Rubio beating either Murphy or Grayson. But if Democrats exploit Rubio’s Pulse hypocrisy with skill, Rubio might just help them beat Trump.

By Jac Wilder VerSteeg who is a columnist for the South Florida Sun Sentinel and former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post.  

June 27, 2016

Pastors Praise the Shooting in Orlando, A Warning


After the massacre in Orlando, Fla., American religious leaders spoke in a largely unified voice, condemning the killer and mourning the dead. But at some extreme conservative Christian churches, there was another message: good riddance.

In the weeks since 49 people were slaughtered at a gay nightclub, remarks by pastors celebrating the deaths have brought attention to several outposts of anti-gay hostility across the country that until now had been operating mostly under the radar.

“The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die,” Roger Jimenez, a Sacramento preacher, exhorted his congregants on June 12, the day of the assault. “The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job! Because these people are predators! They are abusers!”

Mr. Jimenez’s sermon received widespread attention after a video of it appeared online, and then a torrent of denunciation from gay rights advocates, fellow pastors and pretty much everyone who saw it. But his sentiments were also echoed in at least a few other churches.

Rebecca Barrett-Fox, a visiting assistant professor of sociology at Arkansas State University who has researched Christian extremists, said she had tracked about five churches — in California, Texas, Arizona and Tennessee — where preachers had endorsed the killings in Orlando.

They are not as well known as the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., which has become infamous for demonstrations at military funerals. But their views about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and what should happen to them, can be just as troubling.

Many of the preachers identify themselves as so-called independent Baptists, meaning that they are not a part of any of the denomination’s groupings, such as the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Barrett-Fox said the Baptist emphasis on church autonomy — recognizing no central authority — allowed pastors to interpret the Bible for themselves.

“One of the consequences of that is you can get whole congregations that spin further and further away from the norm of what is accepted theology,” she said.

The independent Baptist churches where anti-gay hatred has flourished tend to have small congregations, more likely to number in the dozens than the hundreds, experts said.

Sermons posted online since the attack have been interspersed with dehumanizing labels for L.G.B.T. people reminiscent of those used by the perpetrators of historical genocides. The Orlando victims were “sodomites,” “reprobates,” “perverts” and “scum of the earth,” preachers have said.

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In a sermon at a church in Fort Worth, Pastor Donnie Romero told his congregants that every gay person is a pedophile. He was praying that the injured Orlando victims would not survive, he said, “so that they don’t get any more opportunity to go out and hurt little children.”

“I’ll pray to God that God will finish the job that that man started,” he added, referring to the gunman, Omar Mateen.

While the pastors have stopped short of calling congregants to arms, they say little to discourage it, either.

“I don’t believe it’s right for us to just be a vigilante,” said Steven Anderson, the leader of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., in a video response to the massacre. But, he added, “These people all should have been killed, anyway, but they should have been killed through the proper channels, as in they should have been executed by a righteous government.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said it was alarmed by the comments of extremist pastors after the mass shooting in Orlando. Heidi Beirich, the center’s director of intelligence, warned that they should not be dismissed as empty rhetoric.

“I think it is entirely possible that someone could be inspired by this and kill gay people,” Ms. Beirich said. “This kind of message is exactly akin to Hitlerian ideas of exterminating Jews. It’s that extreme. It’s basically genocidal toward a population.”

Messages left with the pastors in Sacramento, Fort Worth and Tempe were not returned.

Of course, an overwhelming majority of Christians, including Baptists, reject hateful messages about L.G.B.T. people. As a video of Mr. Jimenez’s remarks was shared widely online, a group of more than 700 Sacramento area pastors denounced them. A petition calling for Mr. Jimenez’s removal collected more than 8,000 signatures. About 100 protesters gathered outside the church.

After the Orlando killings, some gay rights advocates have noted how far many mainstream religious leaders have shifted toward acceptance of gay men and lesbians since an earlier tragedy in 1973. Back then, when an arson fire at a gay New Orleans bar killed 32 people, churches refused to bury the dead.

Jay Brown, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, said the L.G.B.T. advocacy group was appalled by the incendiary comments of Mr. Jimenez and other pastors. “But on the other hand, we’ve seen an enormous amount of inspirational comments from faith leaders,” he said.

Mr. Brown recalled how Utah’s lieutenant governor, a Mormon, gave a speech in which he apologized for his role in perpetuating homophobia. Around the same time, a Catholic bishop in Florida issued a public call for believers to stop demonizing gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people. On Sunday, Pope Francis said gays deserved an apology from the Roman Catholic Church.

However, while many conservative Christian leaders no longer want to be seen as anti-gay, the change in tone should not be interpreted as full acceptance, Dr. Barrett-Fox said. The “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach to homosexuality continues to be deeply woven into Christian thinking. 

Some of us gays believe that this pastor is abusing his freedom of speech by inciting to violence and therefore there most be a price to pay. Not a violent price but a price from his peers, landlord, and hopefully people that declare that they are Christians because language like this is what brought the instigation for the shooting in orlando in the first place. This so called pastor should keep in mind there have been pastors and their families that have died through shootings because of who they were. That is the best example to show to this man and others, that calling for violence is a risky proposition for all.


Orlando Shooter Was Gay First Terrorist Second

                                                                           The man, who did not want to be 
The man, who did not want to be identified, wore a disguise and called himself Miguel 

A man who claims he had a "friend with benefits" relationship with Omar Mateen insisted the shooting was not because of any Islamic extremist tendencies but instead was revenge against an HIV-positive lover.

Mateen's shocking attack on the Pulse nightclub in Florida two weeks ago left 49 people dead and dozens more injured in the single deadliest mass shooting on US soil.

In an interview on Wednesday, the man, who did not want to be identified, wore a disguise and called himself Miguel.

He said the reasons behind the massacre could be traced back to a threesome with two Puerto Rican men.
The man, who did not want to be identified, wore a disguise and called himself Miguel
He told Univision he met Mateen last year through a gay dating app and began a relationship soon after. 

Miguel said the sexual relationship lasted about two months and they met at a hotel in Orlando about 20 times.

Univision revealed that a representative for the hotel confirmed Mateen was a familiar face at the hotel during the period in question.

Miguel then provided lurid details about Mateen’s sexual encounters – one of which he said led to the shooting itself.

Mateen was allegedly upset after a threesome with two Puerto Rican men went wrong when one of the men revealed he was HIV positive.

Miguel told Univision anchor Maria Elenas Salinas: "Omar was terrified that he was infected.
"I asked him, ‘Did you do a test?’ Yes. He went to the pharmacy and did the test, it came out negative but it doesn’t come out right away. It takes four, five months."

Miguel believes Mateen intentionally targeted Latinos in retribution for this HIV incident and for the other times his sexual advances were rejected by Puerto Ricans.

He said: "I believe this is not terrorism. He hated gay Puerto Ricans for all the stuff they did to him.

"I believe this crazy horrible thing he did was for revenge."

He told Univision that he met Mateen last year through a gay dating app
There has long been speculation about the gunman's sexuality as a reason behind the shooting – despite Mateen's declared support for ISIS during the tragedy.

One patron of the Pulse nightclub, Jim Van Horn, 71, said Mateen was a "regular" there.

Ty Smith remembered seeing Mateen at Pulse about a dozen times.

He said: "Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself."

His ex-wife Sitora Yusufiy also claimed that the shooter may have been gay.

She told Time: “He might have been homosexual himself and lived that lifestyle but could never ever come clean about it because of the standards of his father, because of the obligation to be a perfect son."
He said Mateen was upset after a threesome with two Puerto Rican men
Miguel added that Mateen never appeared to be violent. He said the 29-year-old was "looking for love" and "loved to be cuddled".

Miguel described Mateen as a "devout Muslim" but one who believed that the religion was "about love" and "welcomed everybody".

Univision claimed the FBI had spoken with the man named Miguel, but a law enforcement official would neither confirm nor deny this to CBS News.

The official did admit Mateen was a frequent user of online dating sites seeking relationships with both men and women.


June 22, 2016

Omar Mateen’s Gay Lover Says He did it for ‘Revenge’ Vs. GayRican’s and HIV

The alleged gay lover of Orlando nightclub gunman Omar Mateen claims he did the shooting as “revenge” against Latino men.

The man, who spoke to Univision on the condition of anonymity, said Mateen held a grudge against Latino men he met at the gay nightclub Pulse because he felt used by them.

“I’ve cried like you have no idea. But the thing that makes me want to tell the truth is that he didn’t do it for terrorism. In my opinion he did it for revenge,” the man who said he was Mateen’s lover for two months told Univision.

The man told Univision that the FBI has interviewed him three times about Mateen. Univision reported that FBI said they have met with the man.

“He adored Latinos, gay Latinos, with brown skin, but he felt rejected. He felt used by them,” the man said. “There were moments in the Pulse nightclub that made him feel really bad. Guys used him. That really affected him.”

The man claimed that Mateen was upset after having a sexual encounter with two Puerto Rican men after one of them revealed he was HIV positive.

“He was terrified that he was infected,” the man told Univision. “I asked him, ‘Did you do a test?’ Yes. He went to the pharmacy and did the test … it came out negative, but it doesn’t come out right away. It takes four, five months.

“When I asked him what he was going to do now, his answer was, ‘I’m going to make them pay for what they did to me.’”

The called Mateen a “very sweet guy” and said he met him last year through a gay dating app.

CBS News and the Los Angeles Times previously reported that Mateen used gay dating apps. He also frequented the Pulse nightclub before killing 49 people more than one week ago.

The man claims he and Mateen met around 20 times, with the last meeting taking place in December. He said Mateen never revealed his name to him, but told him that he was 35 and married with a son. He told Univision that he believed Mateen’s wife knew that he went to gay bars and that his marriage was to hide the fact that he was “100 percent” gay.

CBS News reported that on the night of the shooting Mateen went into the club and received a wristband and left. He then returned nearly two hours later to begin his attack.

Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria during the attack on Facebook and 911 calls.

The FBI previously investigated him for possible terrorist ties but those investigations were closed due to lack of evidence.

June 20, 2016

Matthew Shepard Angels Blocked Protesters at Funeral of Orlando 2 Shooting Victims

'Angels' blocked anti-gay protesters from Orlando shooting victim's burial

Funerals for two of the 49 Orlando massacre victims took place amid anti-gay protesters and an impatient driver who cut through a funeral procession, injuring two deputies.

The four anti-gay protesters were from the homophobic Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church. They raised signs with anti-gay slogans outside the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, where services took place for Christopher Leinonen, who was one of those killed in the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Police formed a line between the Westboro protesters and the hundreds of funeral attendees, who included members of the LGBTQ community, priests, bikers, and locals.

The crowd cheered when members of Orlando's Shakespeare Theater wearing huge "angel wings" showed up to block out the Westboro protesters.

The wings, which measured eight feet across and rose three feet above their shoulders, were made of white cloth and plastic piping. Reuters reported that the wings first surfaced at the 1998 funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay student who was brutally murdered in Wyoming.

During the funeral procession for Jean Carlos Mendez in Kissimee, Florida, about 20 miles south of Orlando, a driver became impatient and cut through the procession, injuring two sheriff’s deputies on motorcycles. The mass shooting, which took place a week ago, killed 49 and injured scores more. On Saturday evening in Berlin, more than a thousand people attended a candle-lit vigil to show solidarity with the victims of the attack, their families, and the wider LGBT community. The Brandenburg Gate was lit up in rainbow colors.
 US Attorney General Loretta Lynch condemned last week’s mass shooting as “an act of terror and an act of hate," echoing the line used by President Barack Obama and others, and thereby acknowledging that when the gunman targeted a gay nightclub, he was targeting the LGBT community at large.
Reporting by VICE

FL Gov.Scott with Hollow Minutes of Silence but Never Mentioning the Victims were Gay

When Florida Gov. Rick Scott(above in picture) held a news conference on the mass shootings in Orlando without once acknowledging what by then was clear — that the killer’s targets were principally gay men — many people took notice, especially those in the state’s large, vocal and organized LGBT community.

Over the next two days, they made their feelings of dismay and disbelief plain in a deluge of tweets and social-media postings. Only then did Scott, a conservative Republican whose active opposition to legal marriage for gays and lesbians had not endeared him to the community, issue a statement alluding to the obvious.

“We pray for our LGBT community,” Scott said on Twitter. “Our Hispanic community. Our state. Our nation. This was an attack on every American.”

It was too late for many in the community, though. The governor’s supportive tweet unleashed another barrage of online opprobrium, with many LGBT Floridians accusing Scott and other conservative politicians who have opposed gay rights but issued sympathetic messages after the shootings of hypocrisy and opportunism.
If the immediate aftermath of the shootings brought a rare moment of unified political support for the victims, that’s since been fractured by a persisting schism in Florida over the question of LGBT rights that goes back at least to the late 1970s, when Miami anti-gay-rights crusader Anita Bryant’s successful campaign to overturn an anti-discrimination Miami-Dade County ordinance launched a national backlash against expanded legal protections for homosexuals.

LGBT rights advocates in Florida have scored some substantial victories in the decades since: Miami-Dade reinstated its ordinance 20 years later, and more recently extended its protections to transgender people. Numerous other local governments across the state have also adopted similarly broad human-rights ordinances. Courts overturned a state ban on gay adoption in 2010 and declared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstititional in 2014, allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally in Florida for the first time, starting in 2015. Florida’s tourism agency, meanwhile, runs national promotions to lure gay and lesbian tourists, especially to welcoming destinations like Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Miami Beach and Orlando.

But Florida, with large evangelical and traditionally minded retiree populations, and politically dominated by conservative Republicans, remains sharply split on the issue, and the Orlando shootings may only intensify the battle over additional legal protections and social acceptance for LGBT people.

So far, advocates’ ultimate legislative goal — a statewide ban on housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation — remains elusive, a reality that the Orlando massacre only drove home even harder for some. The attack also prompted a wave of anti-gay messages on social media from people who said the victims brought it on themselves because of what the posters described as immoral behavior.

“After the victories in marriage equality, the conversation shifted to the fact that you can be married on a Saturday and be fired on Monday for being gay,” said Christian Ulvert, a Democratic political consultant and LGBT-rights advocate based in Miami Beach. “What happened in Orlando, it’s a punch to the gut and it’s a wake-up call. The victories we’ve had are important. But there is still vitriol and hate, and you see it on social media. Marriage equality was but one victory in a long fight.”

Conservative and religious leaders have tried to gingerly sidestep the question, saying the immediate aftermath of the tragedy is not the right time to take up a politically fraught question like that of gay rights.

“We are still trying to get our hands around it,” said Republican State Rep. Frank Artiles of Miami, who unsuccessfully introduced a bill in the past session of the Florida Legislature that would have barred transgender people from using a public bathroom that did not match their birth gender. “Right now it’s time to console the families of the victims of this mass terrorism attack. That’s priority number one. Right now, legislation is the last thing on anybody’s mind.”

But advocates say it’s very much on theirs, and they expect more than just words of support from Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose testy exchanges this past week with CNN newshost Anderson Cooper over her costly record of fighting same-sex marriage in court have gone viral. They say that Scott and Bondi have in the past pandered to gay-rights opponents, noting the governor’s signing earlier of a controversial bill shielding clergy from civil action for refusing to perform same-sex weddings as a largely symbolic action to please religious conservatives.

Carlos Guillermo Smith, the legislative director for the LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida, said Scott should now prove good faith by signing an executive order barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in state agencies and contracting, and that legislative leaders should move on an expansion of the state’s civil-rights laws that has been introduced but stalled for nine years.

“The governor can sign this executive order today. The idea that the state would not respond to a horrific hate crime by doing the bare minimum to protect its LGTBQ citizens, well that’s absolutely something that must happen and will happen,” said Smith, who is running for the state legislature from Orlando. “A lot of people are asking what good could come of this tragedy. The question is, what good will we make of this?”

Smith and other advocates say they’re more than willing to cut Scott some slack if he engages in a real discussion over gay rights. The governor, known for not displaying much emotion, has been visibly moved in encounters with victims and their families and in describing the impact of the shootings on them. He has laid flowers at a memorial for victims, met with their families and retweeted posts from Delta Airlines, the Tampa Bay Rays baseball club and others festooned with logos in the rainbow colors of the gay-pride flag.

“That’s why I’m optimistic,” Smith said. “This has had an impact on the governor. He’s a human being. There is no way he cannot have been moved, not just to see the outpouring of love as well as the devastation this has caused.”

But Ulvert, Smith and other LGBT Floridians and activists say it didn’t help matters when Bondi reacted defensively in a live interview with CNN’s Cooper outside the Orlando hospital where many shooting victims were treated. Citing criticism from local members of the LGBT community, Cooper hectored Bondi over her expressed support for what she called “our” LGBT community after the attack in contrast to her previous defense of the state’s marriage ban in court, based on an argument that same-sex marriage posed a threat of “harm” to Florida.


Cooper called it a “sick irony” that many spouses of victims would not have had the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital if the ban had not been overturned. After the interview, Bondi went on the offensive against Cooper on a New York radio talk show, accusing the newsman of “creating more anger and havoc and hatred yesterday.”

Bondi wasted an opportunity to reach out to the gay and lesbian community in a meaningful way by expressing regret or second thoughts about her legal defense of the marriage ban, Ulvert said.

“Words are not enough. Actions matter. To honor the victims is to recognize that times have changed, and should change,” Ulvert said.

The shootings have sharpened a sense of urgency among the state’s LGBT advocates. Even before the attack, they were on edge amid a legal backlash over the legalization of same-sex marriage across the country that has included so-called “bathroom bills” aimed at transgender people and passed in North Carolina and Mississippi. Though Artiles’ similar bill stalled after passing two committee votes, activists say politicians, ministers and preachers who have demonized gays and lesbians as deviants during the past few years of debate have stoked anti-gay hatred and discrimination in the state.

After the shootings, the New York Times published an analysis of FBI data showing that LGBT people are now the most likely victims of hate crimes across the country, displacing Jews.

“My heart is angry because the indignation and the hate that has been expressed toward our community has caused this mess,” said Stanley Ramos, a young, gay Puerto Rican social worker who is studying to be a pastor, as he began a tearful sermon Wednesday evening at Orlando’s LGBT-oriented Joy Metropolitan Community Church. “This mess has happened because we’ve given a license to attack gay people. This mess has happened because preachers of our Christian faith have stood up on television and sat on the radio and have preached the gospel against us.”

Ramos’ sermon underscored the gulf that remains in the wake of the shootings between LGBT Floridians and even well-meaning people who have offered what he described as grudging, backhanded sympathy. He said he was appalled when he visited a fundamentalist church the night before for a vigil on behalf of victims of the massacre.

State Rep. Frank Artiles, on anti-discrimination legislation

“I heard them say how much in spite, in spite of our sin they love us. In spite of our differences, hear me, in spite of our differences — we come together in love,” he said.

Smacking the back of his hand into his other palm, his words coming louder and louder, Ramos said he’d had enough of that and urged his congregation not to take it anymore, either.

“Last night I had not been in a straight, evangelical, heterosexual, predominantly white church in 15 years. And I went last night and I sat there saying ‘Lord, it’s gonna be 50 before I do this again,’ ” Ramos said. “I’m not doing it no more. I’m not apologizing to you. I don’t care if you accept me or you don’t accept me.”


June 17, 2016

What Happens to A Gay Young Person Growing in a Homophobic Home


Imagine growing up hearing from those you love and trust that certain groups of people are evil. In fact, these people are so bad, so wrong, that God himself will punish them. Imagine absorbing this hatred deep into your bones. Imagine that you then discover, at some point in your adolescence, that you are one of these people. They are the hated. You are the hated.

We don’t know the details of Omar Mateen’s sexuality. Perhaps he did not fully understand. But according to some, Mateen expressed romantic interest in men. A classmate from his 2006 police academy class told the “Palm Beach Post” that Mateen had asked him out. Sometimes, after class, Mateen would go with friends to gay nightclubs, the classmate said.

And we know that in a video made after the shooting,  Mateen’s father said, “God himself will give punishment to homosexuality.” It’s conceivable that this is a sentiment Mateen heard more than once.
We will never understand what triggered Mateen. But there is abundant evidence that the prejudice we face is toxic. And when anti-gay prejudice comes from parents or religion, the effect is profound. According to University of Tennessee Knoxville psychology professor Dawn Szymanski, research shows that experiencing rejection from parents of your sexual identity is linked to traumatic internalized negativity – what psychologists call “internalized homonegativity” or “internalized stigma.” The same is true when a person belongs to a religion that rejects homosexuality.
One consequence of this internalized stigma is violence: Studies of same-sex couples show that internalized homophobia is significant predictor of violence within a relationship. Self-hatred also creates profound psychological distress: One meta-analysis found that higher levels of internalized anti-gay stigma were correlated with worse mental health. The psychological distress can include anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem and hyperarousal – a state of increased tension that includes irritability, anger and aggression.
The stress caused by internal stigma can evoke a biological response. According to Stephanie Budge, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, there is broad consensus in the research community that “minority stress” — including internalized self-hatred — creates massive physical health problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, this kind of cumulative stress disrupts almost all the body’s processes. Indeed, gay people who live in communities with high levels of anti-gay prejudice have a life expectancy that is shorter by 12 years.

Anti-gay prejudice is especially pernicious because it creeps into the intimacy of one’s own family. For other forms of bias – racism, for example, or prejudice based on one’s religion — the family can be a refuge against the hatred of the outside world. But anti-gay prejudice is different. The hatred comes from not outsiders, but from loved ones. Parents’ rejection of their children is the one of the biggest reasons as many as 40 percent of homeless youths are LGBT.

Will Cox, a research scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies prejudice, was one of these kids. He grew up in a strict Mormon household and was rejected by his parents when he came out as gay. “I felt guilty,” he says. “I’d pray for forgiveness. The religious piece was so strong – at one point I had email exchanges with my parents discussing same-sex marriage and my mom said, ‘Will seems to be making a lot of good points. Do you think that is because Lucifer is influencing our thoughts?’” 

Politicians will continue to use “radical Islam” as a culprit. But it’s not clear that Mateen was motivated by ideology; indeed, he claimed to support a jumble of groups with conflicting points of view. On the other hand, his ex-wife told CNN, “It doesn’t surprise me that he was leading two totally different lives and was in such deep conflict within himself.” No psychologist, says Budge, would say this conflict was the triggering cause. But it’s impossible to imagine that the deep distress of this internal struggle did not contribute in some way to Mateen’s mental state.

Hours after the Orlando massacre, Sacramento pastor Roger Jimenez delivered a hate-filled speech, in which he expressed happiness that the tragedy had happened. He said, “The bible says they’re wicked, they’re vile, they’re predators. And they deserve the death penalty for what they do.”

Imagine a young person sitting in his congregation, listening. Imagine this young person absorbing that certain people deserve to die because of who they are. Now imagine that child growing up to discover that he is gay. He, too, deserves to die. Imagine the chaos and self-hatred growing inside his heart.

June 15, 2016

Omar Mateen was Gay Trying to pIck up Men/ A Bullied Chubby Kid with Homophobic Dad



A regular at the Gay Night Club

Jim Van Horn said he was a frequent patron at Orlando’s Pulse night club. He said another ‘‘regular’’ at the Florida gay bar was Omar Mateen, the man whose shooting rampage left 49 dead and dozens more wounded early Sunday in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Speaking to The Associated Press late Monday, 71-year-old Van Horn says he saw Mateen trying to pick up men at the club.

Van Horn said he met Mateen once. He said the younger man was telling him about his ex-wife.

Van Horn says some friends then called him away and told him they didn’t want him talking to Mateen because ‘‘they thought he was a strange person.’’

Despite Mateen’s pledge of support to the Islamic State, other possible explanations emerged, including questions of whether he was conflicted about his sexuality.

An official says the FBI is investigating reports that the Orlando massacre shooter had been a regular at the gay nightclub he attacked and had used gay dating apps.

The U.S. official had been briefed on the investigation into 29-year-old gunman Omar Mateen. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday.

The comments follow reports and comments from patrons at the Orlando club Pulse that Mateen was a regular there and tried to pick up men. Previously, his Afghan-immigrant father had suggested Mateen may have acted out of anti-gay hatred, and said his son got angry recently about seeing two men kiss.

 Kevin West said he was in the parking lot at the Pulse Orlando nightclub at 1 a.m. Sunday when he recognized Omar Mateen walking in.

The men had met more than a year ago when Mateen reached out to West on Jack’d, a dating app for men. They then lost touch until three months ago, when Mateen made contact again, mentioned that he would be in Orlando soon, and suggested meeting for a drink. West had also seen Mateen at Pulse multiple times before.

“I remember details,” said West, a 37-year-old Navy veteran. “I never forget a face.”

Later that night, Mateen would kill 49 people inside the gay nightclub in Orlando in the worst mass shooting in US history.

Mateen’s apparent presence on gay dating apps and his previous visits to Pulse, according to West and another witness, added another dimension to the portrait emerging Monday of the man behind the violent rampage.

Cord Cedeno said he had also seen Mateen inside Pulse before, standing at the bar with a drink.

“He was open with his picture on the sites, he was easy to recognize,” said Cedeno, 23, of Orlando, who said he was also contacted by Mateen at least a year ago on a dating app.

LATEST UPDATE: Washington Post just posted the following before we came out at 12am:

Family members and an ex-wife of Omar Mateen say he regularly espoused homophobic views, but regulars at the LGBT nightclub where the 29-year-old American-born Muslim gunman killed 49 while pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group described him as a routine visitor.
Others recognized him from gay dating apps, adding to the complicated and at times contradictory picture of the man behind the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Investigators also are questioning Mateen’s second wife, Noor Salman, about the degree of knowledge she had before the attack early Sunday.
An official who was briefed on the progress of the case but insisted on anonymity told The Associated Press that authorities believe Mateen’s wife knew about the plot, but they are reluctant to charge her on that basis alone.
Mateen, who injured 53 others when he stormed the gay nightclub Pulse and opened fire, appears to have been preparing for the attack since at least June 4, when he purchased one of the firearms used in the assault.
As authorities work to piece together the motivation behind the attack, a probe that initially centered on Islamic radicalization and the FBI’s prior investigations of Mateen has veered into whether the killer struggled with feelings about his own sexual identity.

Psychological studies show that anti-gay views are more pronounced in people who repress same-sex desires, particularly those who are raised by parents who forbid homosexuality.
“In many cases, these are people who are at war with themselves and they are turning this internal conflict outward,” said Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester who oversaw a 2012 study on homophobia.
Jim Van Horn, 71, told AP that he saw Mateen repeatedly at the bar and talked with him once.
“He was a homosexual, and he was trying to pick up men,” Mr. Van Horn said. “He would walk up to them and then he would maybe put his arm around ‘em or something and maybe try to get them to dance a little bit or something.”
During a news conference at Orlando Regional Medical Center, shooting survivor Patience Carter said she was praying to die as she lay on a nightclub bathroom floor covered in water and blood. She said Mateen talked about wanting the U.S. to “stop bombing my country,” a possible reference to his father’s native Afghanistan.
“I really don’t think I’m going to get out of there,” said Ms. Carter, 20, recalling her thoughts. “I made peace with God. ‘Just please take me. I don’t want any more.’ I was just begging God to take the soul out of my body.”
Citing law enforcement sources, NBC News reported that Mateen’s wife accompanied him to the gun store when he purchased ammunition several days after June 4 and at some point drove him to Pulse because he wanted to scope out the club.
Investigators are continuing to dig through his phone and communications as well as interviewing those who knew him to determine more about the killer and the degree to which those around him may have been aware of or aided him in carrying out his plans.
NBC also reported that authorities are considering whether to bring criminal charges against Ms. Salman regarding her failure to report the plans for the brutal attack to law enforcement. Mateen was killed in a shootout with police.
Ms. Salman has not spoken out publicly about Mateen.
Amy Filjones, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Middle District of Florida, declined to comment on the report because the investigation is continuing.
Even if Ms. Salman knew about the pending attack, the extent to which she felt able to warn law enforcement is unclear.
Mateen’s first wife, Sitora Yusufiy, has described the gunman as controlling and abusive. She said he forbade her from seeing her family and seized control of her paychecks. Their marriage in 2009 lasted four months.
“He was totally two different people sometimes and would turn and abuse me, out of nowhere, when I was sleeping,” she told The New York Times.
Ms. Yusufiy said she did not know whether her former husband might have been homosexual but noted that he regularly expressed strong anti-gay feelings.
One regular patron of Pulse told the Los Angeles Times that he recognized Mateen from the gay dating app Jack’d. Another told MSNBC that he had received messages from Mateen through the app Grindr.
Hector Camacho, CEO of Jack’d, said the company has not been able to substantiate claims that Mateen was active on the site.
For lawmakers looking to prevent terrorism, the ambiguity in Mateen’s motivations and questions about how the attack could have been detected led to separate tactics.
Democrats were intent on forcing votes on gun control. Although it may be impossible to spot “lone wolf” attackers, they said, their rampages can be less lethal if they don’t have access to firearms.
House Republicans rejected that approach and instead vowed to pass a series of bills designed to shape an anti-terrorism strategy. Republican leaders said they would repackage and approve nine separate bills as a single bill and send it to the Senate, where they hope it will receive action.
President Obama on Tuesday renewed his call for Congress to impose more gun control, especially a ban on assault-style rifles such as the one used in Orlando.
“Stop making it easy as possible for terrorists to buy assault weapons. Reinstate the assault weapons ban,” Mr. Obama said. “Otherwise these kinds of events are going to keep on happening.”
Noting that the attackers in San Bernardino, California, and Fort Hood, Texas, were U.S. citizens, the president said authorities cannot conduct blanket surveillance on all Muslims.
“Where does this stop?” Mr. Obama asked. “Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Do Republican officials actually agree with this? Because that’s not the America we want. It won’t make us more safe; it will make us less safe.”
Law enforcement groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Association of Police Organizations, said the heavy fire that Orlando Police Department officers came under while trying to subdue Mateen is evidence that law enforcement has a real need for surplus military equipment.
Mr. Obama signed an executive order last year that imposed limitations on the types of surplus equipment that police departments could obtain through surplus programs.[End of Wash Post report]


 His ex-wife said he suffered from mental illness. And his Afghan-immigrant father suggested he may have acted out of anti-gay hatred.
The ex-wife of the shooter at a gay Florida nightclub says the man enjoyed nightlife, but she’s not sure if he had any homosexual tendencies.

Sitora Yusufiy spoke to CNN on Tuesday from Denver.

She says: ‘‘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. ... 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.’’

The comments follow reports from customers at the gay nightclub that shooter Omar Mateen was seen there regularly. One told The Associated Press that Mateen tried to pick up men there.

Asked whether she thinks her ex-husband was gay, Yusufiy said: ‘‘I don’t know. He never personally or physically made any indications while we were together of that. But he did feel very strongly about homosexuality.’’

She says it’s possible he hid feelings about being gay.

The couple were married in 2009 and divorced two years later. She has said he was abusive.

The Apartment

Family photos, drawings, blackboard messages, a Quran and books on Islam decorate the apartment where the shooter in the Orlando gay nightclub massacre lived with his wife.

Univision News reported the details and says it visited the home in Fort Pierce, Florida, on Monday when it was unoccupied. Univision reports that it was the morning after the FBI swept the apartment for evidence, and says the home was unlocked and not yet sealed off by crime-scene tape.

The report describes a blackboard message in the kitchen about an appointment at their 3-year-old son’s school and a note with an Arabic phrase praising God.

Univision says that on the living room table was a document listing items investigators removed: 9 mm cartridges, an iPad mini, a Samsung phone, a Dell computer, a CD labeled with Mateen’s name.

Mateen lived there with his second wife, Noor Salman.

New developments with Marteen second wife. She has stated that she tried to stop Omar from committing this mass shooting. The question is if she was trying to stop him then she mot’ve known what he was up to and the question that will pop on  everyone’s mind is why didn’t she called the police?
There ware reports from CBSN that she has been interviewed at least twice by the FBI and also polygraph. No details about this but what has come out is food for thought.


Killer showing his colors early on with the 9/11 Attacks

A man who knew the Orlando nightclub shooter as a teenager says the student infuriated his peers by joking about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Robert Zirkle says he and Omar Marteen lived in Stuart, Florida, and rode the same bus, though they attended different schools.

Zirkle says he and his friends were generally on good terms with Mateen until 9/11. Zirkle says Mateen made airplane and explosion sounds and appeared to be joking about the attacks.

Zirkle says, ‘‘My group of friends told him it wasn’t a joke, and if he didn’t knock it off he was going to have problems.’’

Zirkle is now 29 and lives in Johnson City, Tennessee. He says he would see Mateen when both teens worked at the mall but didn’t have much contact after those jobs.

Gunman brutally bullied for being chubby and being Arab

An anonymous official told the Associated Press that the FBI is investigating the claims the shooter had been at the club before and had used gay dating apps.

Mateen and his family had the typical profile of striving immigrants in this country. But there were also hints of darkness in Mateen’s life, according to interviews with relatives, friends, ex-classmates, former co-workers and acquaintances: Being Arab American meant he stood out in a small South Florida town and was bullied in school. He switched jobs constantly and became increasingly frustrated, unpredictable, sporadically religious, and prone to anger.

Some of Mateen’s high school classmates pinpointed a particularly strange moment on Sept. 11, 2001, when they were watching the attack on the World Trade Center unfold on live TV.

Four classmates said Mateen cheered and made mocking comments, which got him pulled from class and may have led to his departure from the school. His unusual behavior that day was also corroborated by other classmates in public posts on Facebook.

The Martin County School District referred all questions about Mateen’s time as a student to the FBI.

Robert Zirkle, then a freshman in the Martin school district, said that after 9/11, he saw Mateen excited and making fun of how America was attacked.

“He was making plane noises on the bus, acting like he was running into a building,” said Zirkle. “I don’t really know if he was doing it because he was being taught some stuff at home or just doing it for attention because he didn’t have a lot of friends.

“We all rode the same bus. We weren’t really close friends, but friends at least a little,” he said. “After 9/11 happened, he started changing and acting different.”

At the time, Mateen was attending the Spectrum alternative school, a campus in Stuart, Fla., for students with behavioral issues.

One former student who was sitting in the same class as Mateen said he remembers the morning of 9/11 clearly: “Teachers said, ‘Turn on the TV.’ We see the one plane hit. And then see the second plane hit. . . . He was smiling. It was almost like surreal how happy he was about what had happened to us.”

The former student said Mateen stood up after the second tower was hit and claimed that Osama bin Laden was his uncle.

“Back then, we didn’t even really know who Osama bin Laden was,” the classmate said. “But he talked about shooting AK-47s. . . . He said he shot them and his uncle taught him how to shoot them.”

The ex-classmate spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear that business clients would find out that he attended a school for poorly behaving students. He recalled others in the class growing angry. “The teacher could tell we wanted to hurt him. So the teacher grabbed him,” he said, and sent him to the dean’s office.

In a Facebook post, another student similarly described Mateen’s standing up and cheering on 9/11.

A third classmate said he distinctly remembers Mateen’s actions that day because both of them were sent to the dean’s office at the same time for acting out when the towers were hit. That third student spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared being bombarded by media requests.

“I was sleeping in class and woke up to see people jumping off buildings, so I started swearing and they sent me up,” the former student said. When he arrived at the dean’s office, Mateen was also there, apparently for saying rude things about Americans deserving to be attacked, said this student, who was not in the classroom to witness the comments.

The first former classmate, who was in the classroom, vividly recalled Mateen’s father picking him up after he got in trouble. “I remember his dad walking up,” he said. “And in the courtyard in front of everyone, the dad slapped him right across the face.”

After that day, Zirkle said, “he kept doing it and saying crazy things. It’s weird. He was totally cool before 9/11, and then something changed.”

Zirkle and others think Mateen was suspended or expelled from the school shortly afterward.

But such memories don’t fit with those of Kenneth Winstanley, a friend of Mateen’s in junior high and high school, who said he did not recall Mateen celebrating the Sept. 11 attacks and doubted his friend would have done that. Winstanley was not in the same room as Mateen that day.

“I never heard about him doing anything like that,’’ said Winstanley, who attended school with Mateen from grades six through 10. “Someone would have said something. We were friends. If he was caught celebrating something like that, he would have gotten beaten up.’’

Winstanley said he never saw signs of radicalization in Mateen in high school, adding, “I know Omar liked America.’’ He said the two once had a conversation about Mateen’s Muslim faith. “Omar explained the Muslim religion to me,’’ Winstanley said. “He didn’t go crazy into it. It was just some of the things his culture does, the food they eat. Nothing radical Islam at all.’’

Sarah Zaidi, who was best friends with one of Mateen’s three sisters, described the Mateens as “an all-American family.”

“His mom worked for a while at a day-care center. His dad did stuff with stocks and investment,” Zaidi said. “They were pretty moderate as Muslims. None of the sisters or mom even wore a headscarf like some Muslims do.”

Two of Mateen’s sisters are now married and have kids in the same area, Zaidi said. A third is a hairdresser and cosmetologist.

But as the only son, Mateen seemed to have fewer friends than his sisters.

“He was brutally bullied,” said Justin Delancy, who rode the bus with Mateen for several years. “He was a chubby kid and got bullied about his weight. He was probably one of the only kids of Arab descent. That made him stand out a bit as well.”

On some mornings, kids wouldn’t let Mateen sit beside them. On others, he’d get slapped on the back of his head, Delancy said. “He’d try to joke and laugh and make fun of himself to get the attention off of himself. But it didn’t work.”

Court records released Monday depict a meandering life for Mateen after he left the alternative school. He graduated in 2006 from Martin County’s adult vocational school, where struggling students go to get GEDs. He earned an associate’s degree from Indian River State College in 2006.

In the court documents, Mateen disclosed his work history, a string of jobs from 2002 to 2006 at GNC, Hollister, Gold’s Gym, Nutrition World, Walgreens, Chick-fil-A, Circuit City, and Publix.

In 2009, Mateen married Sitora Yusufiy, who has said in interviews that Mateen beat her severely. They separated about nine months later. A judge ruled in 2011 that their marriage was “irretrievably broken.”

After he married a second time, his current wife, Noor Z. Salman, also left him to return to her childhood home in Rodeo, Calif., with their 3-year-old son, acquaintances said.

Friends and co-workers gave conflicting reports about Mateen’s religiosity and personality. To some, he was extremely pious and serious. But others described him chasing girls, going to parties, and drinking.

“He was fun,” said Ryan Jones, 27, who said he often went out with Mateen.

Former classmate Samuel King and his friends also hung out with Mateen at the mall, where Mateen worked at the GNC store after high school and King at Ruby Tuesday. Half the workers at the restaurant were openly gay, King said, including himself. “He had to know it, but I never got any sense of homophobia or aggression from him.”

Over the past two days, King and others have revisited their interactions with Mateen, trying to find signs of how he turned into someone capable of such violence.

On Monday, Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, insisted that his son was not motivated by Islamist radical ideology, describing the 29-year-old as “a good son” who did not appear agitated or angry in the days before the shooting.

In an interview at his home in Port St. Lucie, the father offered no hints about what could have driven his son.

When asked about Mateen’s 911 call pledging loyalty to the Islamic State, his father said he did not believe it was genuine.

“I think he just wanted to boast of himself,” he said. “No radicalism, no. He doesn’t have a beard even. . . . I don’t think religion or Islam had anything to do with this.”

His father also glossed over the anger and homophobia that, a day earlier, he recounted witnessing in Mateen after his son saw a gay couple being affectionate in Miami. “He was surprised about it. That was it.”

In a video posted to Facebook early Monday, the father said: “God himself will punish those involved in homosexuality. This is not for the servants” of God.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, government officials were also trying to piece together the family’s background for clues. They said they do not know when Mateen’s father left the country, but noted that millions fled after the Soviet Union’s invasion in 1979.

Mateen’s father, however, maintained a strong affiliation with Afghanistan, hosting a television show broadcast from California that weighed in on the country’s political affairs. He also filmed dozens of sparsely viewed, rambling YouTube videos portraying himself as an important Afghan analyst and leader.

The most recent video on the father’s YouTube channel shows him declaring his candidacy for the Afghan presidency. But the timing is strange, coming a year after presidential elections were held in Afghanistan. And the elder Mateen appears incoherent at times in the video, jumping abruptly from topic to topic.

Sitting on his living-room couch, the father said he saw no warning signs up to the day before the shootings, when he last saw his son.

“He was well behaved. His appearance was perfect,” he said. “I didn’t see any sign of worrying or being upset or nervous.”

 Last segment(brutally bullied) by
William Wan and Anne Hull who reported from Orlando. Journalists Arelis R. Hernandez in Orlando, Lee Powell and Zachary Fagenson in Fort Pierce, Tim Craig in Afghanistan, and Julie Tate, Alice Crites, Amy Brittain, Jerry Markon, Brian Murphy, and Max Bearak in Washington contributed to this report.

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