Perpetrator of mass violence? Orlando shooter fit bill
It’s been two weeks since the worst mass shooting in US history and authorities have yet to announce any breakthrough in the investigation into the motives of gunman Omar Mateen.
Many questions remain, but experts say there are similarities between him and perpetrators of previous atrocities.
Mateen, a 29-year-old US citizen of Afghan origin, was buried quietly in a Muslim cemetery near Miami, about three hours from the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando.
Mateen entered the club and opened fire with an assault rifle, and police killed him after a three-hour standoff. Forty-nine clubgoers where killed in the shooting.
The question remains: why did Mateen target the Pulse club and its gay customers?
Mateen told an emergency dispatcher in a call during the carnage that he was pledging allegiance to Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
But gay men in Orlando have also come forward to report that Mateen used gay dating apps and had been a repeat patron at Pulse.
Was he radicalized? Or fighting an inner conflict between religious fundamentalism and repressed homosexuality?
– Fits the profile –
Mateen fits the profile of a “typical” jihadist killer in America, based on a study by the New America think tank which analyzed more than 300 cases of people charged with terrorism in the United States since September 11, 2001.
“They are ordinary Americans,” said Peter Bergen, New America vice president and author of “United States of Jihad.”
According to the think tank, the average perpetrator is 28 years old. One-third are married and one-third have children. Their education level is similar to that of the average American, with 50 percent having completed high school.
Mateen and the San Bernardino shooters fit this profile.
Syed Farook, a US citizen, and his Pakistani wife Tashfeen Malik in December gunned down 14 people at an office party in San Bernardino, California, before they were killed in a shootout with police.
“They exactly fit the profile: he was 28, she was 29, they were married, they had a kid, they both attended college, they graduated with degrees in sort of a technical area,” Bergen said.
Mateen was also married with a son and had a steady job in security.
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, but this wouldn’t have stopped these mass shootings because they were carried out by US citizens.
Farook was born in Chicago and Mateen was born in New York’s Queens neighborhood, “which is exactly where Donald Trump was born, so he is as American as Donald Trump,” Bergen said.
Another mass shooter, Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who opened fire at the Fort Hood military base and killed 13 people in 2009, was born in Virginia.
Both Mateen and Farook seemed uncertain about which radical path to follow.
“Farook was kind of terrorist group shopping for a while,” Bergen said.
For a while he was interested in Shebab, East Africa’s Al-Qaeda branch headquartered in Somalia. Then Farook was drawn to Al-Qaeda in Yemen and listened to sermons by Yemeni-born American radical Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi, Bergen said.
Mateen displayed similarly muddled allegiances.
“First, he claimed family connections to Al-Qaeda. He also said that he was a member of Hezbollah, which is a Shiite terrorist organization that is a bitter enemy of the so-called Islamic state, ISIL,” FBI chief James Comey has said.
– Dashed dreams –
Like 16 percent of those who perpetrate deadly shootings, Mateen had abused a spouse — his first wife reported that she had been beaten.
The statistic comes from data compiled from January 2009 to July 2015 by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group aimed at reducing US gun violence.
Experts say Mateen also fits the bill of a disillusioned dreamer. Those who study mass killers believe that when a person with dreams of greatness finds those aspirations thwarted, personal frustration can trigger such an act.
Tamerlan Tsarnaiev, who along with his brother carried out the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, “had dreams of being an Olympic-level boxer which faded over time,” Bergen said.
“At the time of the attacks, he was unemployed, essentially unemployable. His wife was working 80 hours a week, working as a home-health aid and he was basically sponging off her.”
Mateen dreamed of a career in the police force but in April 2007 was dismissed from a corrections officer training program due to disciplinary issues.
Some believe this was a preview of the violence that was to come.