A Stupefying Picture of Warning Signs Unaddressed

By Daily Editorials

June 15, 2016 4 min read

There were more than enough warning signs to suggest that Omar Mateen needed to be kept as far away from guns as possible. His father appears to have known it. His ex-wife certainly knew it. A former co-worker heard him talk about killing. And the FBI had multiple occasions to question whether Mateen had links to terrorist activity.

This picture is beyond unsettling. It is stupefying.

Various major terrorist incidents not only in the United States but around the world offered similar warning signs in which friends, relatives or co-workers strongly suspected a problem was brewing, but either chose not to sound the alarm, or their warnings fell on deaf ears.

From the preliminary information known about Mateen's case, the signs could hardly have been clearer that he was capable of coming undone. And yet, nothing in federal law or Florida law appears to have allowed authorities to stop him from obtaining firearms.

Mateen purchased an assault rifle and semiautomatic pistol only a few days before the attack. Should anyone be surprised at the result?

Daniel Gilroy, who worked with Mateen at a Florida security company, described the gunman as being constantly agitated and prone to make racial, ethnic and sexual slurs. "He talked about killing people all the time," Gilroy told The New York Times.

Sometime in 2013, the FBI began investigating Mateen after co-workers warned about possible terrorism links. The FBI interviewed Mateen twice, talked to witnesses, performed records checks and even placed him under surveillance.

In 2014, federal authorities suspected Mateen had an association with Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, an American from the Orlando area who had gone to fight in Syria with a group allied with al-Qaida. Abu-Salha became the first American suicide bomber in Syria.

Federal authorities didn't find substantial evidence to warrant intervention. He was free to acquire a killing arsenal under Florida's gun-friendly laws.

Mateen's ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, divorced him after he repeatedly abused her. She told the Washington Post: "He was not a stable person. He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn't finished or something like that."

Sometimes he beat her as she slept. He wouldn't let her phone her parents. Yusufiy cited times when he expressed clear intolerance toward gays, who were targeted in Sunday's attack.

Mateen's father recorded video commentaries in which he claimed to lead a pro-Taliban revolutionary army. He would dress in military uniform and call for the arrest of Afghan leaders and former U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. The father and son apparently talked repeatedly about their shared aversion to gays.

Because of warning signs ignored, 49 victims plus Mateen are dead.

Gilroy says he kind of feels guilty for having failed to speak out. "I wasn't shocked" by what happened in Orlando, he said. "I saw it coming."

REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

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