When several gay men in Orlando volunteered that they thought they'd seen or even interacted with mass shooter Omar Mateen on various gay dating apps—immediately setting into motion the narrative that he was a self-hating closet case—I was skeptical. The witnesses didn't strike me as liars (the one who gave an interview on TV in makeup did), but they didn't sound that sure, and there is a wealth of information out there on how people mix these kinds of things up, even those who are “sure.”
The FBI has since noted that there is no evidence at all that Mateen was gay, or that he ever joined a gay dating app, even to do research. That would imply that the witnesses are simply mistaking him for someone else, which is not hard to grasp—it's hard to positively ID people you chatted with or just saw on an app for a short time. Pictures are not the same as flesh, and one picture of someone may look totally different from another.
I was struck by the conspiracy-drenched denials of at least one witness, who insisted his version of reality trumped anything the FBI could unravel.
Via the Los Angeles Times:
Kevin West, 29, a Navy veteran and Pulse regular, said Mateen messaged him on Jack’d and also said he recognized him entering the club on the night of the shooting. After the attack, West turned his phone and app passwords over to police and FBI investigators. He said Mateen didn’t reveal his name, but he recognized him from the photo Mateen had posted on the app, which matched one of the gunman released after the shooting.
On Thursday, he dismissed federal investigators’ doubts.
“No one is lying about him being on there,” West said of the gay apps, adding that “once you have the app and delete your profile, it’s gone.”
I received this statement from Jack'd regarding the possibility of old profiles being gone forever:
When Online Buddies purchased Jack'd it was built so deleted profiles were in fact deleted and info was not kept.