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“I never forget a face.” Later that night, Mateen killed 49 people inside the gay nightclub in Orlando in the worst mass shooting in U. Cord Cedeno said he had also seen Mateen inside Pulse before, standing at the bar with a drink.
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.Four classmates said Mateen cheered and made mocking comments, which got him pulled from class and might 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,” Zirkle recalled. So the teacher grabbed him,” he said, and sent him to the dean’s office.
“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 weren’t really close friends, but friends at least a little,” he said. 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. 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. In a Facebook post, another student similarly described Mateen’s standing up and cheering on 9/11.
— Kevin West said he was in the parking lot at the Pulse nightclub at 1 a.m. The men had met more than a year ago when Mateen reached out to West on Jack’d, a dating app for men.
They 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. 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.