Even with mounting speculation, the father of the gunman responsible for the Orlando nightclub massacre still does not believe his son was gay. “He wasn’t gay. I know 90 percent, 95 percent,” Seddique Mateen tells The Advocate. Any doubt only persists because his son, Omar Mateen, was killed in a shootout Sunday with police. “He is dead now. I wish he was alive. You would be talking to him in prison.”
Seddique Mateen sat down with The Advocate in his Port St. Lucie, Fla., home days after his son went into Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, and launched a shooting spree. The attack was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, with 50 people, including Omar Mateen, dead. Since the attacks, Pulse regulars have said Mateen was at the club as often as every two weeks in recent years. Trans performer Lisa Lane told The Advocate he was a friendly fan. “I never forget a face,” she said.
The elder Mateen does not deny his son was there but believes there is another explanation. “Based on what I’m thinking of, he must have gone scouting or something.”
Sitar Yusufiy, Omar Mateen’s ex-wife, has reported to numerous media outlets that Mateen exhibited gay tendencies he hid from family. Seddique Mateen dismissed that as the word of a “profiteer” who had already taken advantage of his son. “She wanted to marry him and [come] to Florida,” he said. “If she wants to come out accusing my son, he is dead.” Similarly, the father dismissed suggestions by former classmates that Omar had flirted with men in school. “When you go through middle school or high school, that makes you a character,” the father said.
The father has hosted countless members of the media in his living room since it first became clear his son was responsible for the Pulse attack. The experience has been trying for the entire family, he said, and while he remained genial, he showed signs of impatience at times as questions arose about anything he might have done differently as a parent to lead his son on a different path. He wants to form a coalition encouraging parents to intervene if they ever see signs their children are drifting toward extremism.
How would the elder Mateen characterize his relationship with his own son? “Based on what I knew, it was close, but he fooled me,” he said. “That was his choice.” Mateen said he has not forgiven his son for the attack, but he also considers Omar a victim of terror himself.
“My son, the 50 people that are victims, they are all victims of terrorism,” he said. It was inspiration by ISIS that led his son to attack the club, the father said. “I heard from the news he called 911 and said ISIS. That tells you the ideas were from ISIS. Who created ISIS? We are all victims of ISIS, all victims of the terrorist groups.”
America needs to go after the people spreading ideas of extremism, Seddique Mateen said, comparing the struggle to Hercules' mythical battle against the hydra; Hercules realized he could not just cut off heads because two more would grow in its place. “He said I cannot cut off the heads I have to cut the heart,” he said. The United States should cut off resources to countries exporting terrorism, he said. “All I want to do is promote that my son was killed by terrorists. This was a terrorist idea he learned from them.”