Omar Mateen committed the most horrific act of anti-gay violence on U.S. soil. But there was a time when he had gay friends, a high school classmate says.">
FORT PIERCE, Florida Years before he shot up an Orlando gay club in what became the largest mass shooting in American history, Omar Mateen regularly picked up lunch from a drag queen at Ruby Tuesday. He may have even gone to see a drag show or two, a former high school classmate told The Daily Beast.
About 10 years ago, Mateen, a few years out of high school, was working at the supplement store GNC. Samuel King, a year ahead of him in high school, was working next door at the restaurant chain. Mateen was a few years out of playing football in high school while King, who is openly gay, had long, flowing extensions, and prettier hair than most of his female co-workers.
He always had a smile on his face, King told The Daily Beast on Sunday. Maybe its because he was working in customer service.
After seeing the trending news story about the Orlando shooting, King posted his disbelief on Facebook. I cant believe i knew this dude. He worked at GNC at the treasure coast mall when i was at Ruby Tuesdays and he Graduated from the same high school in 2004, he wrote. He was a jokester and at the time didnt have an issue with the LGBT community.
Mateens father told NBC News that Mateen got angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami a couple of months ago and that he thought that might be related to the shooting.
But King saw none of that homophobia. Quite the opposite: He said Mateen knew that he and many of his co-workers at Ruby Tuesday were gay, and didnt seem to have a problem with it.
Thats the thing thats pinning me to the wall the most, that it was a gay nightclub, King said. Because he would come into the [the restaurant] and laugh with us.
He mightve even sat down at the bar and had a drink and laughed with the bartenders, knowing that they were lesbians, King added.
These interactions shed new light on a man believed to be motivated by blind hatred for gay people. By the end of his rampage, Mateen had killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in the most deadly terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. During his attack on a sea of dancing young men, Mateen called 911 and pledged allegiance to the leader of ISIS, announcing himself as a terrorist and mentioning the Boston marathon attackers.
Yet if Mateen was a religious extremist, King didnt know it, and the topic of religion never came up in conversations. Instead, the two men would greet each other on the street. King likely showed him, like the rest of the employees and regulars, photos in full costume from his performances.
I cant pinpoint a date that he went with us, but he probably gone there with us once, he said.
Syed Shafeeq Rahman, Imam at the Islamic Center in Fort Pierce where Mateen worshipped, said he had been a sunny child who enjoyed skipping but something had changed in recent years.
He would not talk to anybody, but would just smile, he said.
Recent co-workers described Mateens demeanor as aggressive and anti-gay. Daniel Gilroy, who worked with Mateen at the security company G4S, toldFlorida Today that he was unhinged and unstable.
I quit because everything he said was toxic, and the company wouldnt do anything, Gilroy told the news outlet. This guy was unhinged and unstable. He talked of killing people.
He said Mateen stalked him with dozens of text messages a day, but the company didnt take action because Mateen was Muslim.