Omar Mateen, American Monster
In 2016, the U.S. was rocked by the worst mass shooting in recent history. The shooter, 29-year-old Floridian Omar Mateen, killed 49 people and wounded 53 more at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, during a Latin Night celebration. The club, a popular gathering spot for the LGBT community, had been packed with party goers when shooting started around 2 am on the morning of Sunday, June 12, 2016. Mateen had entered the club unchallenged carrying an AR-15 assault rifle and a 9 mm pistol. He started firing almost immediately. Off-duty police officers serving as club security personnel tried to stop the violence, but Mateen’s superior fire power and crowded conditions forced them back. Mateen’s life ended three hours later when a police SWAT team smashed through a wall at the rear of the building and killed him.
During the shooting, Mateen made three 911 calls to emergency operators, and one to an Orlando TV station, saying that he was a soldier of the Islamic State, and that his attack was a protest against U.S. actions in the Middle East. During the calls, he pledged loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State.i
Although Mateen had made two trips to the Saudi Arabia on religious pilgrimages, later investigation by the CIA found “no direct link” between Mateen and terrorists.
Mateen was born in New York City to Seddique and Shahla Mateen, natives of Afghanistan. They moved to Florida when Mateen was still in grade school. The elder Mateen paid for and broadcast an occasional television show on a U.S.-based Afghan satellite channel for about three years. The show supported the Taliban in its border struggle with Pakistan. The father even conducted a remote bid for the presidency of Afghanistan while living in Florida.
As a child, Mateen was difficult. In fifth grade, he was disciplined more than 15 times for misbehavior. A middle school teacher warned his family of his “inability to show self-control.” In high school he was arrested for fighting, and later expelled. Schoolmates recalled that he openly celebrated the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.ii
As an adult, Mateen held a variety of jobs, including that of a prison guard at a Florida correctional facility. He was fired from that position in 2007 after becoming enraged that a piece of hamburger he was cooking at a barbecue with fellow workers touched a piece of pork. He told the others there that he out to kill of them, and that he would come back with a gun.iii By 2013, he was working as a security guard at the St. Lucie County Courthouse in Fort Pierce, Florida. While there he reportedly boasted of family ties to Al Qaeda, prompting the local sheriff to remove him from the job. The security company that he worked for, G4S, then transferred him to work at a residential golfing community in the area. At the time of the killings, he was still employed as an armed security officer for G4S — one of the largest private security companies in the world.
Prior to the shootings, Mateen had been interviewed by the FBI on two occasions for possible terrorist connections. At one point Mateen had reportedly been seen at a party in private conversation with Moner Muhammad Abu Salha, the man who became America’s first suicide bomber in Syria.
During what became a ten-month long FBI investigation, Mateen’s name was added to the federal Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), a classified repository that includes the names of suspected terrorists or their associates; as well as to the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), a sophisticated database that comprises the main terrorist “watch list” used by the FBI.iv He had even been placed on the domestic no-fly terrorist watch list before being removed from it in 2014 when the FBI closed its investigation of him; finding no credible evidence of his links to terrorist organizations.v After the shooting, however, the FBI concluded that Mateen had been radicalized by “Islamist propaganda,” but found no evidence that the shooting had been coordinated from outside of the United States.vi
In what may be an important insight into his personality, coworkers and ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, described Mateen as bigoted, angry, and abusive. One co-worker said that he quit his job after complaints to superiors about Mateen went unheeded, and Mateen harassed him with repeated disparaging telephone calls.
Yusufiy later told reporters that her husband had likely been gay, but was hiding the truth about his sexual orientation from his parents. She also said that, during their marriage, Mateen would become uncontrollably angry for no apparent reason, and became verbally and physically abusive toward her for not having the laundry done or dinner cooked when he got home. Yusufiy, who emigrated into the United States from Uzbekistan also said that Mateen would confiscate her paychecks, and forced her into social isolation from family and friends.
If, indeed Mateen was acting out a felt-identity with Islamic State, then the research of anthropologist Scott Atran of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor could be relevant. Atran says that it is a mistake to dismiss people like Mateen as mentally ill or as lonely losers, arguing instead that Mateen’s behavior can be explained by the concept of a “devoted actor.” Devoted actors, says Atran, “will sacrifice themselves, their families and anyone or anything else” because of closely held personal values.vii These values are regarded as sacred and non-negotiable, and to be defended at all costs. The question in Mateen’s case, says Atran, is not why he did what he did, but rather how he acquired the values that motivated him to take the actions that he did.
Edited transcripts released by the FBI of phone calls between the Orlando Police Department and the shooter can be viewed at: justicestudies.com/
Answer the ques:
What would the General Theory say about Mateen? How might it explain his behavior?