ORLANDO: Authorities believe the gunman who killed 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub conducted surveillance trips at both the club and Walt Disney World earlier this month, a law enforcement official said.
Omar Mir Seddique Mateen’s visits happened between June 1 and June 6, said the official, who has knowledge of the investigation. The number of visits to each venue was not specified.
The dates coincided with Gay Days 2016 celebrations that were taking place at Disney World and other Orlando locations between May 31 and June 6.
Investigators believe the visits were intended to survey the locations, based on information learned in interviews.
The visits also came in the same time period when Mateen was purchasing the weapons used Sunday morning’s Pulse nightclub attack, which he picked up June 9 after a cooling-off period.
The day before that attack – the deadliest mass shooting in US history – Mateen spent several hours at Disney Springs, the shopping and entertainment complex inside the Walt Disney World Resort, law enforcement officials said.
Authorities said they believe Mateen was alone at that time.
To some, Mateen was angry and homophobic, spewing outrage at the sight of two gay men kissing.
But he was also a friendly and familiar face at the gay club he eventually terrorised, killing 49 people.
Investigators are trying to understand what spurred the New York-born security guard to commit the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Chris Callen, who worked at Pulse as a performer, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper he’d seen Mateen dozens of times at the club. According to his estimate, Mateen visited Pulse twice a month over a period of three years.
“He was very friendly when we said ‘hi.’ He didn’t seem like the kind of guy who just did what he did. It makes no sense,” Callen said.
“My partner said that he was very nice (and seemed) comfortable.
Prior visits to Pulse are a line of inquiry investigators are pursuing, sources involved in the investigation tell CNN’s Jim Scuitto and Evan Perez.
Pulse regular Kevin West told the Los Angeles Times that Mateen messaged him on a gay dating app several times in the year before the attack.
But that picture doesn’t match up easily to the account of his co-workers who said Mateen was known to frequently spew anti-gay remarks.
“He was an angry person, violent in nature, and a bigot to almost every class of person,” Dan Gilroy said in West Palm Beach. The former police officer asserts that he foresaw Mateen eventually committing an act of mass violence.
Mateen’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, described a brief but violent relationship to a mentally-ill man whom she was only able to escape from through her family’s help. She said he was physically abusive and a steroid abuser.
Mateen had even come to the attention of authorities, with the FBI interviewing him in two terror-related cases in recent years.
But both of the investigations were closed, and Mateen – who would go on to call 911 and pledge allegiance to ISIS during his rampage – was not under investigation or surveillance at the time of the attack.