Investigators say Orlando shooter sought out Islamic State propaganda, may have staked out Disney sites
Inaya Bava, 5, on June 16, 2016, draws on crosses set up to remember the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting at the Orlando Regional Medical Center.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Relatives of those killed and wounded in the Pulse nightclub attack arrive at Amway Center on June 16, 2016, for private meetings with President Obama.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden bring flowers to the makeshift memorial at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.(Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel)
Jiffy Lube employee Ralph Nieves puts up a sign of support for the Orlando community following the shooting at the Pulse nightclub.(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
Sarah Roemer, left, and Brandi Van Dongen, nurses at Arnold Palmer Childrens Hospital in Orlando, pray at one of the memorials.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
The Parliament House is one of the largest nightclubs catering to the LGBT clients.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Rafael Rivera, left and Jeannette Gonzalez grieve at a wake for Eric Ortiz, one of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Members of the media and public wait to catch a glimpse of President Obama at Amway Center.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
A prayer service is held on June 15, 2016, for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting at Delaney Street Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla.(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
Kelly Greenwood prepares a casket on June 16, 2016, at the Cardinal Casket Company in Orlando, Fla.(John Taggart / EPA)
Candles are placed under American flags set in a circle outside a vigil at Christ Church Unity for the shooting victims.(Charles King / Orlando Sentinel)
At the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Taylor Green, 25, left, and Brittany Spencer, 25, grieve for those killed in the Pulse nightclub attack.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
ATF investigators continue to work the scene of the Pulse nightclub shooting along Orange Ave.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Friends and family attend the funeral of Angel Luis Candelario-Padro. It was the first funeral for the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.(Jacob Langston / Orlando Sentinel)
Doctors, nurses and first-responders at a prayer service in the emergency room at Florida Hospital in Orlando to honor the victims of the nightclub shooting.(Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel)
FBI investigators continue to work at the Pulse nightclub on June 15.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Mourners embrace outside the visitation for Pulse nightclub shooting victim Javier Jorge-Reyes.(David Goldman / Associated Press)
Mourners gather at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando for a vigil in honor of the nightclub attack victims.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Michelle Moment sing praise during a service at the First Baptist Church of Orlando during a special prayer service for the attack on Pulse nightclub.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
With stitches in his hand, gunshot victim Angel Colon tells his story to the media at a news conference at Orlando Regional Medical Center on Tuesday.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Gunshot victim Patience Carter, 20, left, is consoled by Dr. Neil Finkler at a news conference at Florida Hospital, joined by Dr. Brian Vickaryous, center, and fellow survivor Angel Santiago, 32, right, where they described the attack and its aftermath.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Angel Santiago on June 14, describes how events unfolded during the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando two days earlier.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Doctors and other staff at Orlando Regional Medical Center involved in the response to the nightclub shooting answer questions at a news conference on June 14, 2016.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Thousands gather for a memorial at the Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in downtown Orlando on June 13, 2016, to honor those killed and wounded in the Pulse nightclub attack.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Alison Cossio, center, holds a photo of her friend Christopher Sanfeliz, who one of the victims of the Orlando shooting, during a June 13, 2016, candlelight vigil and rally, hosted by the Los Angeles LGBT Center, at Los Angeles City Hall.(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)
Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels plays guitar and sings during the Islamic Center of Southern California and ICUJP Interfaith Vigil Against Violence and Hatred Monday,night in remembrance of the 50 people killed in Orlando.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Marwa Balkar holds a candle at the Islamic Center of Southern California and ICUJP Interfaith Vigil Against Violence and Hatred on June 13, 2016, in remembrance of the 49 people killed in Orlando, Fla.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles City Hall is lit up in colors of the rainbow during a candlelight vigil and rally, hosted by the Los Angeles LGBT Center.(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)
Scott Phillips and Em Enagan mourn for the 49 lives lost in the Orlando shooting during a vigil at Los Angeles City Hall.(Callaghan O’Hare / Los Angeles Times)
A song is sung during a candlelight vigil and rally, hosted by the Los Angeles LGBT Center, at Los Angeles City Hall, for the victims of Sunday’s shooting massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando.(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)
Thousands gather for a memorial rally at the Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in downtown Orlando on Monday to honor those killed and wounded in the Pulse nightclub attack.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Madeline Lago, 15, and her mother Carmen Lago were among the thousands who gathered for a memorial at the Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in downtown Orlando on Monday to honor those killed and wounded in the Pulse nightclub attack. They bowed their heads as the bell was tolled.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Thousands gather for a memorial at the Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in downtown Orlando on Monday to honor those killed and wounded in the Pulse nightclub attack.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Friends and relatives bring flowers and remembrances to the plaza at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in downtown Orlando on Monday.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Danielle Irigoyen brings flowers to the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. “I’m very close to many of the people who go to Pulse. Pulse was a safe place for us all,” she sail.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Investigators gather at the Pulse nightclub on Monday morning.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Investigators set up at the Pulse nightclub.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Family gather for victims at Beardall Senior Center in Orlandoon Monday.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Friends of Shane Tomlinson, including Richie Compton, left, and Erik Winger, right, gather in prayer and remembrances in downtown Orlando on Monday. Shane Tomlinson was killed killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Family and friends arrive at the Senior Center in Orlando as they await news on their loved ones on Monday. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Volunteers gather in prayer on Monday at the Senior Center in Orlando where they are there to help grieving family and friends of those killed and injured in the shooting at Pulse nightclub.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
FBI investigators in Orlando, Fla., look at the floor plans of Pulse nightclub as they gather on Monday morning to continue the investigation.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
People gather at Taylor Square in Sydney, Australia, to show solidarity with victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting.(Dan Himbrechts / EPA)
City Hall in Tel Aviv, Israel, is lit up in solidarity with Orlando’s shooting victims.(Oded Balilty / Associated Press)
New Zealand residents gather at Frank Kitts Park in Wellingtond to mourn victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla.
(Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images)
New Zealand residents gather in Frank Kitts Park to mourn victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting.(Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images)
Residents gather at Joy Metropolitan Community Church near the Pulse nightclub in Orlando to mourn the mass shooting victims of the early morning attack on June 12, 2016.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Johnpaul Vazquez, right, and his boyfriend Yazan Sale sit by Lake Eola, in downtown Orlando, thinking of those killed and injured.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Judy Rettig, center, and Dave Hack, left, hug after a prayer service held at the Joy Meropolitan Community Church in Orlando.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Zafar Basith prays at a vigil for the Orlando shooting victims at the Baitul Hameed Mosque in Chino.(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Raymond Braun, right, right, gets a hug after a vigil held in West Hollywood for the victims of the shooting at the nightclub in Orlando.(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)
Monte Dobbs and Jhoanna Galvez of Long Beach, comfort each other during a vigil service at the corner of La Cienega Blvd. and Santa Monica Blvd.(Harrison Hill / Los Angeles Times)
Orlando, second from right, was at the nightclub and trapped for three hours in a bathroom. Orlando and family attend a vigil and church service held at Joy Meropolitan Community Church very close to Pulse nightclub.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
People hug in solaceafter a vigil and church service held at Joy Meropolitan Community Church very close to Pulse nightclub.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Susan Stephens, right, gets a hug from Karen Castelloes before a vigil and prayer service is held at Joy Meropolitan Community Church very close to Pulse nightclub.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Investigators view the site of the early morning mass shooting on June 12, 2016, at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
People hold signs in support of the Orlando shooting victims on Sunday.(Jacob Langston / Orlando Sentinel)
Kelvin Cobaris, a local clergyman, consoles Orlando city commissioner Patty Sheehan (right) and Terry DeCarlo, an Orlando gay-rights advocate, as they arrive on the scene near where at least 50 people were reportedly shot and killed in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016.(Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel)
Aerial view of the shooting scene at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.(Red Huber / Orlando Sentinel)
A bomb disposal unit checks for explosives around the apartment building where shooting suspect Omar Mateen is believed to have lived on June 12, 2016 in Fort Pierce, Florida.(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
Ray Rivera, a DJ at Pulse nightclub, is consoled by a friend outside of the Orlando Police Department after 50 people were killed at the club on Sunday.(Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel)
Orlando police officers outside of Pulse nightclub after a fatal shooting and hostage situation on Sunday.(Gerardo Mora / Getty Images)
Terry DeCarlo, executive director of the LGBT Center of Central Florida, right, is comforted by an Orlando Police officer after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla. on Sunday.(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, center, and others have a moment of silence on June 12, 2016, in West Hollywood for the victims of the shooting in Orlando, Fla., that happened early that morning.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Emergency personnel at Orlando Regional Medical Center wait with stretchers for the arrival of victims from the fatal nightclub shooting.(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)
A police officer stands guard outside the Orlando Regional Medical Center after a fatal shooting at nearby Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday.(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)
Law enforcement agencies and local city representatives speak at a news conference after 50 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.(Jacob Langston / Orlando Sentinel)
An Orange County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Department SWAT member arrives at Pulse nightclub.(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)
Orlando police direct family members away from the Pulse nightclub, where 50 people were killed.(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)
Bystanders wait down the street after a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)
The scene outside Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., after the shooting early Sunday.(Univision Florida Central / EPA)
An injured person is escorted out of the Pulse nightclub after a shooting rampage Sunday morning in Orlando, Fla.(Steven Fernandez / Associated Press)
An injured man is escorted out of the Pulse nightclub after a shooting rampage Sunday morning in Orlando, Fla. A gunman with an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a gay nightclub, killing at least 50 people before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said.(Steven Fernandez / Associated Press)
Omar Mateen increasingly sought out Islamic State videos and other radical Islamist propaganda in the months leading up to his shooting rampage at an Orlando, Fla., gay nightclub Sunday, investigators have found.
A counter-terrorism official said investigators had uncovered the material while reviewing Mateen’s Internet search history. Mateen, who was killed by a SWAT team, pledged allegiance to Islamic State during the attack.
As the inquiry into the Orlando nightclub shooting broadened Tuesday, with investigators ranging as far afield as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, survivors recounted the New York-born gunman – whose parents are Afghan immigrants – telling them he had gone on a killing rampage because he “wanted America to stop bombing his country.”
Yet there has been intense speculation about Mateen’s motives, ranging from Islamist extremism to sexual repression.
FBI officials revealed that Mateen, who killed 49 people Sunday in the worst mass shooting in modern American history, had visited Pulse and frequented other gay clubs in the past and had used a dating app on his phone to meet other men.
He also made repeated visits to Disney properties in Florida during the Gay Days Orlando festivities.
“It is fair to say there was a considerable amount of planning involved and scouting of potential locations,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a telephone interview Tuesday after a closed-door briefing for House members by FBI director James B. Comey and other officials. Schiff would not give further details.
Investigators are also investigating whether Mateen’s wife, Noor Zahi Salman, assisted in organizing the attack on the Pulse nightclub or knew about the attack in advance, and whether she could have warned law enforcement.
Salman drove Mateen to Pulse at least once in the days before the attack, a counter-terrorism official said. The Orlando club is about a two-hour drive from their home in Fort Pierce.
Salman returned with a police escort Tuesday to the apartment she shared with Mateen, and officers were investigating a reported burglary at the home early Monday morning, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. TV footage showed her hiding her face beneath a hoodie.
Investigators are also collecting data from at least two cellphones used by Mateen, as well as other electronic media and email accounts, a U.S. law enforcement official said.
So far, the official said, investigators have not encountered any data that has been encrypted, a major stumbling block in the FBI’s investigation of an iPhone used by the couple who killed 14 people at a holiday party in San Bernardino on Dec. 2.
Six shooting victims remained in critical condition Tuesday, said Dr. Michael Cheatham, a trauma surgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center, adding he would be surprised if the death toll does not rise.
Live updates: Orlando terror attack »
All 49 victims killed have been identified and their families notified, and 20 of the bodies have been released to a funeral home, the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office said.
The county does not have the power to release the shooter’s body since it is in FBI custody, said county spokeswoman Ann Marie Varga.
The day after a massive candlelight vigil in downtown Orlando, city officials were able to release the names of all 49 people killed — mostly Latinos in their 20s and 30s.
Orlando resident Nereida Perez, a 66-year-old retiree, said her cousin Llka Aroyo, 36, underwent surgery late Monday after being shot eight times in the attack. Doctors were cautiously optimistic, Perez said, though there were still bullets inside Aroyo’s body, near her heart.
Doctors said the volume of patients with severe gunshot wounds surpassed anything they had ever handled. Initially, it was thought many patients would succumb to their wounds, but most have stabilized, doctors said.
Many of the victims were originally from Puerto Rico, and four of the dead were from Mexico.
Investigators, meanwhile, are trying to retrace as much of Mateen’s final weeks and months as possible in an effort to understand his motivation.
Mateen was the target of a 10-month FBI investigation in 2013 and 2014 after making comments expressing sympathies with rival Islamist groups al Qaeda and Hezbollah, but the case was closed when a confidential informant, surveillance and eavesdropping did not turn up evidence of illegal activity.
At that point Mateen’s name was taken off the FBI Terrorist Screening Center’s watchlist.
Had his name been on the watchlist when he bought the semiautomatic rifle and handgun he used in the mass shooting, an FBI agent working the case would have been notified of the purchases.
At a news conference Tuesday at Florida Hospital in Orlando, one survivor, Patience Carter, described cowering with two friends inside a handicapped bathroom stall at the club while Mateen stood nearby, chatting. Among other things, she said, he announced: “This is about my country.”
Mateen was born in New York to Afghan immigrants. Although he was a U.S. citizen, he appeared to be talking about Afghanistan.
“He said that the reason why he was doing this was he wanted America to stop bombing his country,” Carter said.
The investigation has extended to Afghanistan, where Mateen’s parents were from, and to Saudi Arabia.
Mateen traveled to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for 10 days in March 2011 and for eight days in March 2012 to take part in the annual religious pilgrimage made by Muslims, a U.S. law enforcement official said.
In 2013, when the FBI launched a 10-month investigation of Mateen for possible terrorist ties, U.S. authorities asked Saudi intelligence officials about the two trips, officials said.
The Saudis had no evidence suggesting Mateen had held suspicious meetings while in the kingdom, or engaged in any other behavior that raised any alarms.
Recent news reports suggesting that Mateen may have been gay have circulated widely online, including a CNN interview with his ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, who said she didn’t know if he was gay. She said he spoke as if he hated gays.
“Whether the gunman’s homophobia spurred from hatred of others or hatred of himself, this is homophobia all the same,” the LGBT group GLAAD said in a statement. “It’s sadly just the latest example of homophobia turning to horrific violence, just as it has for decades.”
Kevin West, a regular at Pulse, told The Times that Mateen messaged him on and off for a year before the shooting, using the gay chat and dating app Jack’d.
At least four regular Pulse customers told the Orlando Sentinel that they believed they had seen Mateen there before.
A former classmate recalled that Mateen seemed like a “regular dude” until the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
“At first, I was surprised … like, damn bro, I rode the bus with that kid,” said Robert Zirkle, 29, who attended Martin County High School in Stuart, Fla. “But then I got remembering and thinking … he was crazy then, but nobody connected the dots.
“He started acting crazy, joking around the fact that 9/11 happened, making plane noises on the school bus and pretending he was slamming into the building,” said Zirkle, who now lives in Johnston City, Tenn., where he is a manager at a McDonald’s.
“He was happy that Americans were dying. He made that very clear. I don’t know if he was always a Muslim radical, but he was excited, hyped up. We were all like, ‘What are you talking about?’”
Zirkle, who was a freshman at the time, said he and other students threatened Mateen to get him to stop. “We told him if he didn’t stop making noises, we were going to beat him up.”
“He was really out there,” he said of Mateen, who attended the Spectrum Alternative School in Stuart.
“He had no friends. He had people who were cordial with him or would ask him how he was doing. Only a few people spoke to him. I was one of the few who would. He was a Seinfeld kind of guy.”
Zirkle said he had not kept in touch with Mateen since high school and had mostly forgotten him until this weekend. On Sunday, he said, his memories were jogged as he and his former classmates gathered on Facebook chat to share stories of Mateen, along with his high school yearbook photo.
“If we knew this would happen, we would have stopped him a long time ago,” Zirkle said.
Mateen was investigated by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 after he told co-workers that he planned to kill people and wanted to die as a martyr in a police raid. He was removed from the FBI’s terrorist watch list in 2014 after investigators concluded he was full of bluster and not a real threat.
He was questioned again by the FBI after Moner Mohammad Abusalha joined Al Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, and killed more than a dozen people in a truck bomb suicide attack in Syria in 2014.
The FBI concluded that although Mateen and Moner had attended the same mosque, they had known each other only casually.
MORE ON ORLANDO SHOOTING
How the Orlando attack could mark a shift for gay Muslims
A night of terror: How the Orlando nightclub shooting unfolded
Gunman had used gay dating app and visited LGBT nightclub on other occasions, witnesses say
Bennett and Wilber reported from Washington and Pearce from Los Angeles. Staff writers Alexia Fernandez in Los Angeles, Tracy Wilkinson and Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Orlando, Fla., and special correspondent Jenny Jarvie in Port St. Lucie, Fla., contributed to this report.
7:24 p.m.: Updated with new information, including more details about propaganda and injured victims.
5:57 p.m.: Updated with Islamic State videos and other propaganda found and more details about Noor Salman.
3:30 p.m.: Updated with details from the hospital news conference.
11:51 a.m.: This article was updated with new details on Disney visits.
11:14 a.m.: This article was updated with investigators speaking to Mateen’s widow.
9:50 a.m.: This article was updated with new information.
This article was originally published at 8:57 a.m.
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