Like many other young American men, Omar Mateen worked a series of unremarkable jobs during and after high school ─ a Publix grocery store, Circuit City, Chick-Fil-A and Walgreens.
He graduated in 2003 and jumped through a series of jobs related to nutrition and health, working at Nutrition World, Gold’s Gym and a GNC store.
He worked for six months at a state prison. And an early marriage faltered.
But eventually he found some form of stability with a job as a security guard in South Florida, where he was still working when he stormed a gay nightclub early Sunday in Orlando, resulting in the deaths of 49 people and the wounding of 53 more. He died in a gunfight with police.
It remained unclear exactly why Mateen targeted the club. However, one patron told The Orlando Sentinel he saw Mateen drinking at the bar several times before the shooting. Ty Smith said he saw Mateen inside at least a dozen times.
“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” Smith said.
“We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times,” Smith said. “He told us he had a wife and child.”
Kevin West, who also frequented the club, told the Los Angeles Times that Mateen messaged him occasionally using a gay chat and dating app, but the two never met or knew each other by name.
West saw Mateen enter the club an hour before the shooting began and turned over his cellphone and log-in information to the FBI after the shooting.
Mateen, 29, spent most of his childhood on Florida’s Atlantic coast and lived there as an adult, not far from his parents.
Born in the New York City borough of Queens in 1986, he moved with his family to the Long Island town of Westbury two years later and then in 1991 to Port Saint Lucie, Florida, about 125 miles southeast of Orlando.
Imam Syed Shafeeq Rahman of the city’s Islamic Center said he knew Mateen and his family since the shooter was a boy and never saw any signs of violence in him. The Orlando attack, he said, “was totally unexpected”.
But one colleague at the security contractor G4S, his most recent employer, remembered the son of Afghan immigrants as an angry, profane co-worker who used slurs and threatened violence.
Daniel Gilroy said Mateen started badgering him and sending dozens of text messages to him daily, and that he reported Mateen’s behavior to his bosses.
“I kind of feel a little guilty that I didn’t fight harder,” Gilroy said. “If I didn’t walk away and I fought, then maybe 50 people would still be alive today.”
Gilroy told multiple news outlets that Mateen routinely used slurs for gay people, blacks, Jews and women. “He talked about killing people all the time,” Gilroy told The New York Times.
Of the massacre, Gilroy said, “I saw it coming.”
G4S denied Gilroy’s claims, saying in a statement Monday that it had no record of Gilroy ever making such a complaint to his superiors.
Furthermore, the company said, Gilroy told officials shortly after leaving in June 2015: “The work and job assignments were respectful and co-workers were good men and women that put in an honest day’s work and genuinely like to work as a team and contribute.”