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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Warnings Signs of Orlando Shooter's Radicalism Takes Shape

From Friday morning's edition of Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt:
Meet young Omar Mateen:
Things took a dark turn on Sept. 11, 2001. As classmates looked on in shock, Mateen celebrated the terrorist attacks that day, claiming that Osama bin Laden was his uncle, said one person who was present. His antics prompted the school to call his father, and the classmate remembers watching through a school window as Mateen’s father approached his son and then slapped his face . . .
Robert Zirkle, who knew him through school in 2001, said: “We joked that he’d become a terrorist. And then he did.”
As he grew older, the threats continued:
At a barbecue in the spring of 2007, Mateen erupted when his hamburger touched a piece of pork, something he considered a religious affront. He told the class he ought to kill all of them, recalled Susanne Coburn Laforest, 61, who attended the barbecue as a trainee. Mateen told his classmates not to laugh at him because this was serious and “was going to come back and shoot us,” she said.
Not long after, Mateen was sitting in his car in the parking lot as classes were about to resume, when authorities swarmed the auto and escorted him off the property. An official told cadets Mateen had threatened to bring a gun on campus, according to Clinton Custar, who was attending the academy at the time and saw the incident from a classroom window.
This was the same month Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and Mateen threatened to carry out a similar massacre at the police academy because he felt like he was being taunted for being Muslim, said a fellow cadet.
A few years later, after he started talking about how he hoped police would kill his wife and child so he could become a “martyr”, his coworkers called the FBI.
Mateen first came to the FBI’s attention in May 2013, after making a series of “boasts” to co-workers about his various ties to terrorist groups, a U.S. official told The Daily Beast, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the particulars of the case. “That triggered FBI to investigate.”
The FBI investigated more in 2014 when one of the members of his mosque became a suicide bomber.
The Islamic Center was also attended on occasion by Moner Mohammad Abusalha, who is believed to be the first American suicide bomber in Syria. Abusalha, who joined Islamist militants fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, was in his early 20s when he died in 2014 after driving a truck loaded with explosives into a restaurant in Aleppo where Syrian government troops were stationed.
This mosque has just 130 members. Two of them committed terror attacks.  During this probe, “an informant told the FBI that Mateen had mentioned watching videos by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born terrorist and al Qaeda recruiter who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011.” This was the same radical cleric who exchanged messages with the Fort Hood shooter.
Earlier this year, Disney World security called the FBI.
Disney security officials told the FBI they believe Mateen visited Disney World on April 26 to conduct surveillance, a law enforcement official told CNN. The FBI is investigating that possibility.
Then a few weeks ago, the gun store called the FBI.
Mateen then called someone on the phone and began speaking in Arabic. Robert Abell says that’s when the salesman became suspicious.
“He just made the mistake of asking for an armor that wasn’t normal,” he said. “And then on the phone conversation was another key that you might need to step back and look at this. Our guy made the right decision at the time. I’m not selling him anything.
“As soon as we said we didn’t have the bulk ammo he walked out the door.”
Abell says they denied the sale, which they have the right to do. But before they could get his name and information, Mateen left the store.
The gun shop owner says they immediately alerted the FBI about the suspicious man who wanted to purchase body armor. But the feds never followed up and visited the store.
“I don’t see anything in reviewing our work that our agents should have done differently,” FBI Director James Comey said earlier this week.
And government officials wonder why people think they should to own a gun to protect themselves!
And more from The Hill on a gun shop that refused to make a sale to the shooter after some suspicious activity during the encounter:
Robert Abell, who owns Lotus Gunworks in Jensen Beach, said that the store turned Mateen away when he tried to purchase 1,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as two types of body armor that the store did not carry.
The store owner’s suspicions were heightened when Mateen spoke on the phone to someone in a foreign language.
The store contacted the FBI, who were also investigating a group of Middle Eastern men who were buying police gear at the store. The men turned out to be security guards. The FBI asked about Mateen’s visit, but the store couldn’t provide any indentifying details or security camera footage.
Clearly, there were some serious red flags about this guy.

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