As the public searches for answers, speculation is increasing that Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 people at an Orlando gay bar, was himself gay.
Two men told separate media outlets — MSNBC and the Los Angeles Times — that they were messaged by Mateen on gay datings apps. And a former classmate at the Indian River Community College police academy told the Palm Beach Post that he’d once been asked out by Mateen, who he believed to be gay but closeted.
“He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him,” said the classmate, who was not identified. “He was always socially awkward.”
While the FBI investigates potential ties to terrorism, Chris Hayes of MSNBC tracked down a gay man who said the shooter contacted him on Grindr and was a regular on gay dating apps in Orlando.
“I recognize him from one of the apps,” said the Cord Cedeno, referencing Grindr. “But I instantly blocked him because he was very creepy in his messages. I blocked him immediately. Yeah, I recognize him off Grindr. The one of him in the tie.”
Cedeno said Omar Mateen had visited Pulse night club a number of times, and that his friends had seen the gunman on Grindr, Adam4Adam and Jack’d.
“One of them, he didn’t have his pictures up, but he would send them to guys,” said Cedeno. Not everyone blocked Mateen, though, according to this man's account.
“One of my friends, he doesn’t want to be spoken to on media. He said he knew this guy from back in 2007 where he’s been coming to Orlando,” he recalled. “He used to talk to him on the Adam4Adam app. Once he saw the guy’s picture on the news, he told his parents, he told his mom, and he’s like ‘I know this guy, I know this guy.’ And his mom is like, ‘No, you couldn’t have known him, you couldn’t have known him.’ And he was like, ‘No, I know this guy.’”
Another guest later in the show, a performer at the Pulse night club, said he’d heard a rumor that Mateen had been on gay dating apps but had never seen him. And so far no one has turned up an actual copy of a profile on any of these sites.
Performer Lisa Lane, a regular at Latin Night at the Pulse, told The Advocate that she recognized him from shows there. Some estimates place Mateen at the Pulse night club going back three years. Lane never knew his name but immediately knew the face when it started appearing in her Facbeook feed.
"He was one of my fans,” she said. “Always when he saw me he would talk to me."
The Los Angeles Times reports that another regular at the club, Kevin West, said he spoke to Mateen on Jack'd for a year. West told the Times that he'd seen Mateen entering the Pulse night club before the shooting and recognized him from the internet. “He walked directly past me. I said, ‘Hey,’ and he turned and said, 'Hey,'” remembered West. “I could tell by the eyes.” West told the Times that he turned over his phone to the FBI.
Cedeno is certain more will come forward.
“I know there’s plenty of other guys who he has probably tried to contact and hook up from,” Cedeno told Hayes. “So a lot of them are scared to come out and tell the FBI. Two of my friends already went to the FBI, they already spoke with them, they already turned in their phones."
Here's the photo Cedeno appears to be referencing:
JACOB OGLES contributed to this report from Orlando.