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Orlando Gunman Omar Mateen Pledged Allegiance To ISIS


We are getting more details now about that shooter. His name is Omar Mateen. He was 29. He lived in Fort Pierce on Florida's southeastern coast. NPR's Eric Westervelt went there to talk to people who knew Mateen. And Eric is with us now from member station WQCS in Fort Pierce. And Eric, what have Mateen's coworkers told you about him?

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Hi, Kelly. I'd say a slightly contradictory portrait is emerging of the shooter. I mean, some people where Mateen worked as a security guard and some former neighbors even say he was polite, friendly, even helpful at times. But others say he was given to bouts of intense anger and hatred and threats.

A former coworker of his at a security firm, David Gilroy, says Mateen was homophobic, racist, would threaten violence regularly. He tells media outlets here, Kelly, that he alerted his bosses to Mateen's erratic and odd behavior, and nothing at all was done about it.

We called that security firm today - G4S - to ask about that. They declined to speak with us on the record other than saying they're cooperating fully with law enforcement.

MCEVERS: And we know that the FBI had twice looked at Mateen. Tell us about those investigations.

WESTERVELT: Yeah. The FBI interviewed Mateen in 2013 and 2014 for possible links to terrorism. The comments that, you know, unnerved some coworkers and sparked this investigation included threats and boasts, some of them contradictory. Here's FBI director James Comey speaking today.


JAMES COMEY: First, he claimed family connections to al-Qaida. He also said that he was a member of Hezbollah, which is a Shia terrorist organization that is a bitter enemy of the so-called Islamic State.

WESTERVELT: So it seems the shooter had trouble distinguishing between Sunni and Shia extremists, showing perhaps he was less a committed jihadist, Kelly, and just unstable.

MCEVERS: We also know that...


MCEVERS: Go ahead. We also know that Omar Mateen has an ex-wife, and she has spoken out since the attack. What sort of details is she filling in about him?

WESTERVELT: Yeah. He got married to a woman he met online, Kelly, an immigrant from Uzbekistan named Sitora Yusufiy. They bought a house. Life seemed pretty good by all account back then. But Ms. Yusufiy says Omar quickly became abusive verbally and physically. She says he was mentally unstable. He wouldn't let her leave the house except to go to work, that he beat her. He confiscated money and pay checks. Here she is speaking yesterday outside her home near Boulder, Colo.


SITORA YUSUFIY: In the beginning, he was a normal being that cared about family, loved to joke, loved to have fun. But then a few months after we were married, I saw his instability, and I saw that he was bipolar. And he would get mad out of nowhere.

WESTERVELT: Kelly, Yusufiy says she escaped finally with the help of her family. And she added that while Omar was a devout Muslim who prayed often, she never heard him express sympathy for extremist groups. She did say he would make derogatory statements pretty regularly about homosexuals.

MCEVERS: What more are authorities saying about this - this question of whether he was just unstable or somebody who was formally linked to these groups?

WESTERVELT: Investigation is still ongoing, and right now they say they can't determine one way or the other. But folks we've talked to down here say it's pointing to an unstable individual with violent tendencies.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Eric Westervelt in Fort Pierce, Fla. Thanks so much.

WESTERVELT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Westervelt is a San Francisco-based correspondent for NPR's National Desk. He has reported on major events for the network from wars and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to historic wildfires and terrorist attacks in the U.S.