Evidence is mounting that Omar Mateen, the 29-year-old Port St. Lucie, Florida, resident and security guard—and American-born U.S. citizen—either had ties to the Islamic State or at the very least was a lone wolf who had sworn allegiance to it. If nothing else, it is clear he was radicalized; the government was aware of him as a threat, but was not aware he was planning any attacks.
The attack is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism. Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said on CNN that, according to Homeland Security and local law enforcement officials, Mateen “made a pledge of allegiance” to ISIS and had been “heard praying in a foreign language.” It is unclear if Mateen was praying during the shooting, Schiff said.
Mateen's father is claiming the shooting had “nothing to do with religion” and everything to do with Mateen's homophobic response to seeing two men kiss recently, but his explanation is either a bald-faced lie or yet another example of the close friends and family members of radicalized terrorists and even just nut jobs having no idea what their loved ones were really up to.
Florida's useless Gov. Rick Scott, an anti-gay Republican, has declared a state of emergency in the area of the shooting (Orange County) and has briefed the press—but has not talked about the fact that LGBT people were the targets.
As the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, this event will undoubtedly spawn countless tragic stories in the days and weeks to come. I was struck with dread by this anecdote from Daily Beast:
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told CNN that the death toll jumped from 20 to 50 as additional victims were found inside the club. Personnel could not go in immediately as there were suspected explosives. According to Dyer, there were five to eight hostages in one room with the shooter and another 15-20 in a separate room at the time when police entered.
Mina Justice’s son Eddie was inside the club and texted her when the gunshots erupted, the Associated Press reports. Justice told his mom he and others ran into the bathroom to hide.
“He’s coming,” Justice texted, adding later: “He has us, and he’s in here with us.”
“That was the last conversation,” his mother said.
In other news, an instantly notorious tweet from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas, an avowed anti-gay crusader, was apparently scheduled to be posted well in advance of the shootings, so was not intended to blame the victims' sexual orientations for their murder.