Comfort dogs soothe Orlando after nightclub shooting
Nearly one decade ago, Orlando mass killer Omar Mateen was fired from a briefly held job as a state corrections officer, newly released records show.
But exactly why remains unclear — and whatever led to his firing, it wasn’t enough to keep him from becoming a gun-wielding security guard just months later.
The state records show that Mateen passed a psychological exam to earn that firearms license. He was also a crack shot. His firearms tests showed he performed well in training, sometimes at the very Port St. Lucie gun range where he purchased the weapons used in Sunday’s Orlando nightclub massacre.
Those were the revelations in state records authorities released Wednesday documenting Mateen’s licenses to carry firearms and work as a security guard in Florida.
The only blemish, the records show, is that Mateen’s firearms license was briefly suspended when he failed to submit paperwork to the state.
The documents shed some new details into the employment history of Mateen, 29, who worked for G4S Security Solutions for nearly nine years; the company was previously known as Wackenhut.
His history with the company has come under scrutiny since Mateen stormed the Pulse gay nightclub in downtown Orlando on Sunday, killing 49 people and wounding 53 in what was the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.
The FBI said that agents investigated Mateen in May 2013 after he made “inflammatory” comments while working security with G4S at the Port St. Lucie courthouse. Co-workers said he claimed family ties to the al-Qaida terror network.
A 10-month investigation yielded no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, and Mateen claimed he only made the statements because co-workers were teasing him about his Muslim faith. The feds also investigated him briefly in 2014 to see whether he had any ties to a Vero Beach suicide bomber who killed himself in Syria.
The records don’t reflect that the state ever knew he was investigated by the FBI. In his applications, he answered “no” to the question if he had ever been convicted of a crime. He had not.
Speaking on background, a G4S official said the FBI never raised any concerns about Mateen to the company.
But the company did know that agents had questioned Mateen — he himself “disclosed” it to a G4S lawyer as the company probed his claims of being harassed by his peers in 2013. As for the FBI investigation the following year, the company denies ever knowing about it.
Nevertheless, the company later moved him from the courthouse to a gated community, where he was not armed.
A former co-worker there, Daniel Gilroy, told the Miami Herald that he complained to no avail about Mateen’s virulent outbursts against gays and blacks. The company says it has no record of any complaints from Gilroy.
The U.S. born Indian River Community College graduate worked retail at gyms and nutrition stores and that short stint as a probationary officer “taking care of inmates” at the state’s Martin Correctional Institute.
The corrections records released Wednesday showed he was dismissed in May 2007 but don’t reveal why. A few months later, he caught on with GS4. He was approved after taking a 40-hour security-guard training program and 28 hours of firearms training.
Florida does not require a psychological evaluation to become a security guard, but does mandate one to carry a firearm as a security guard. G4S also conducts psychological evaluations for all of its guards.
Mateen’s driving record and credit also came back clean, the company official said. Mateen passed another criminal background check in 2013.
For his firearms licenses, Mateen — then 20 years old — was first evaluated psychologically in September 2007 on behalf of G4S. The psychologist who cleared him was listed as Dr. Carol Nudelman, then of South Miami.
Nudelman has been in the news before for evaluating a prospective G4S security guard who later turned to violence. In 1998, she passed Paul D. Ahern, who went on a shooting spree in Miami, killing two people and wounding a cop.
On Friday, Nudelman issued a statement saying her Florida practice had long since been closed, and she did not evaluate him. The company acknowledged Nudelman’s name on the “character certification” was a “clerical error,” and another doctor evaluated his test results.
The records show that over the years, Mateen received high marks on yearly shooting and written tests, eight of them in all.
Three of those tests took place at the St. Lucie Shooting Center, where federal authorities say Mateen bought the assault rifle and pistol he used in the massacre. His last visit was on Aug. 16, 2015.
The issue of screening of Florida security guards is a perennial source of scrutiny.
Last fall, Miami security guard Lukace Kendle was sentenced to life in prison for murder. He shot two unarmed men outside a strip club, killing one and paralyzing the other. After his arrest, he was twice found mentally incompetent by court-appointed psychologists.
In Mateen’s case, his state records were released as a host of media outlets, including the Miami Herald, have repeatedly asked the state to release Mateen’s 911 calls and other documents.
Mateen was likely inspired by Islamic extremism, according to the FBI and President Barack Obama, although there is no signs he acted on orders from anyone abroad.
The killer’s motives may have been more complicated — several club-goers have said that he himself was gay and frequented the club for months before the shooting.
Federal authorities and now a grand jury are weighing whether to charge Mateen’s wife, who acknowledged he had discussed targeting the club and Disney World.
In other developments on Wednesday:
▪ The FBI urged people to report information about threats against mosques and Muslims in the wake of the killing. Special Agent Ron Hopper also asked citizens to report any past interactions with Mateen.
“No matter how big or small,” Hopper said.
▪ Authorities opened the Orlando Family Assistance Center, located at the stadium commonly known as the Citrus Bowl. It’s a venue where family members can get help arranging funerals, securing room and board and getting grief counseling.
▪ Central Florida leaders said they are preparing for a hate organization that is notorious for picketing funerals after high-profile tragedies. That group: the Westboro Baptist Church, which has drawn infamy for picketing funerals after national tragedies and displaying anti-gay messages. The group tweeted “Orlando Bound” after the shooting.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said police officers are on alert if the group shows up.
“It is a call for our entire community to rally behind what we believe — and that’s love and compassion,” Jacobs said.
▪ News emerged that Mateen may have called a local TV news station during the shooting. According to News 13’s website, a TV producer named Matthw Gentili took a call from a man during the shooting.
“He did it for ISIS, and he started speaking Arabic,” Gentili told his station. “At the time, I didn't know what he was saying. He was speaking so fast.”
The man eventually hung up.