ORLANDO: The man who murdered 49 people at a gay club in Orlando was a closet homosexual who used gay dating apps and frequented gay bars, according to friends and locals in the city.
Omar Mateen was even a regular at Pulse, the site of his massacre, according to several witnesses, and bumped into a man with whom he had been exchanging messages outside the club just before the shooting. The reports came as police were considering pressing charges against Mateen's second wife, Nour Salman, 30, who told the FBI she went with him to scope out possible targets, and had tried to stop him carrying out the attack.
Ms Salman lived in Chicago before moving to Fort Pierce, Florida, with Mateen in November 2012. She is believed to have left Florida last December and moved in with relations in California. She has not spoken publicly and has scrubbed her social media accounts since the attack.
Her few remaining pictures show her smiling and posing with Mateen and a child believed to be their son. Yet others who knew the New York-born killer have painted a picture of a homosexual man who could not come to terms with his sexuality.
In 2006, Mateen attempted to join the police, and a colleague in his academy class said he believed Mateen was gay. Mateen had asked him out, the classmate, who did not want to be named, told local television in Orlando. "We went to a few gay bars with him," he said. "I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer." Another man, Kevin West, said Mateen had contacted him on gay dating apps, and the pair exchanged messages for about a year. They had never met in person, though, until they crossed paths by chance an hour before the shooting.
Mr West was dropping off a friend at the club when he noticed Mateen - whom he knew by sight but not by name - crossing the street.
"He walked directly past me. I said, 'Hey,' and he turned and said, 'Hey,'" and nodded his head," Mr West told the Los Angeles Times. Jim Van Horn, 71, said Mateen was a regular at the club. "He's a homosexual and he was trying to pick up men," said Mr Van Horn.
"He would walk up to them and put his arm around them or something."
Mateen's ex-wife, Sifora Yusufiy, has said he alluded to a secret private life before they were married - a marriage arranged online in 2008, which lasted two years. Asked directly by CNN whether she believed he was gay, she replied: "I don't know."