Even in third grade, Orlando shooter was troubled and aggressive

Oppositional. Lacks remorse. Verbally abusive. These are some of the terms teachers and school counselors used to describe a young Omar Mateen, according to elementary and middle school records.

Mateen, who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, had a troubling record of behavioral issues throughout his elementary and middle school years, ranging from simply disrupting class to outright aggressive conflicts with classmates.

Signs of trouble came as early as kindergarten, when a teacher wrote, “Omar is basically intelligent student but does not always follow through his responsibility.”

Records show that he had difficulty concentrating on assignments, had poor grades for years and displayed aggressive behavior as he moved among various schools in St. Lucie County from kindergarten through seventh grade. He transferred to the Martin County School District for eighth grade.

When he was in third grade, teachers wrote, he talked a lot about violence and sex and used obscenities. He also was active, moving about the classroom with his hands all over the place, including on other children. He also sang “Marijuana, Marijuana,” rather than “Mariposa, Mariposa,” as the school song correctly goes.

In fourth grade he continued to hit other students, as well as scream at them and his teacher, records show.

During seventh grade at St. Lucie County’s Southport Middle School, he was switched from one class to another to “avoid conflicts with other students,” and his parents were given an intervention syllabus that said he was having “behavioral problems including lack of self-discipline and self-control leading to academic failures,” according to school records.

Mateen, the New York-born son of Afghan immigrants, was bilingual and was enrolled in an English program for speakers of other languages. He did poorly in that program — along with math and science, typically getting Ds and Fs as the years progressed. He fared no better in standardized testing. In the fifth-grade test he scored in the sixth percentile for reading vocabulary.

“The main factor prohibiting Omar from success in school is not that the work is too hard but rather his difficulties in conforming to class/school rules,” wrote one of Mateen’s teachers.

FULL COVERAGE: Orlando nightclub shooting »

According to school records, most of Mateen’s behavioral concerns stemmed from his failure to focus unless given one-on-one attention from his teachers. Mateen, who decades later would check social media during his shooting rampage to see how it was being covered, frequently attempted to draw attention to himself in class, jumping and flapping his arms about in a fourth-grade computer class.

School records also show what appears to be a handwritten letter by Mateen addressed to his fourth-grade teacher complaining that two classmates bullied him, with one twisting his shoulder, requiring his father to massage it for him, and the other pushing fingers and nails onto Mateen’s neck, which led Mateen to write that he “almost died.”

Records show that teachers and counselors kept Mateen’s family abreast of his behavioral and academic issues throughout his elementary and middle school years, but that there was little, if any, improvement.

By seventh grade, a teacher wrote to Mateen’s father that if the boy improved his self-control, “he will find greater social acceptance amongst his peers and thus gain self-confidence.”

ileana.najarro@latimes.com

ALSO

Families of Orlando victims gather for funerals as authorities seek answers about shooter

'His head is always down, and his lips is moving': Disturbing portrait emerging of Orlando shooter

A night of terror: How the Orlando nightclub shooting unfolded

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
58°