Kevin West said he was in the parking lot at the Pulse nightclub at around 1am Sunday morning when he recognised Omar Mateen walking in.The men had met more than a year ago when Mateen reached out to West on Jack’d, a dating app for men.They then lost touch until three months ago, when Mateen made contact again, mentioned that he would be in Orlando soon and suggested meeting for a drink.
At least four regular customers at the club said that they believe they had seen Mateen there before.“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” said Ty Smith on Monday.He saw Mateen at the club at least a dozen times, he told the Orlando Sentinel.“I remember details,” said West, a 37-year-old Navy veteran.“I never forget a face.” Later that night, Mateen would kill 49 people inside the gay nightclub in Orlando in the worst mass shooting in modern US history.
Mateen’s apparent presence on gay dating apps and his previous visits to Pulse, according to West and another witness, added another dimension to the portrait emerging Monday of the man behind the violent rampage.
Cord Cedeno said he had also seen Mateen inside Pulse before, standing at the bar with a drink.
“He was open with his picture on the sites, he was easy to recognise,” said Cedeno, 23, of Orlando, who said he was also contacted by Mateen at least a year ago on a dating app.
Mateen and his family had the typical profile of striving immigrants in this country.
But there were also hints of darkness in Mateen’s life, according to interviews with relatives, friends, ex-classmates, former co-workers and acquaintances: being Arab American meant he stood out in a small South Florida town and was bullied in school.
He switched jobs constantly and became increasingly frustrated, unpredictable, sporadically religious and prone to anger.