Few answers as Orlando shooting investigation moves into fourth day

Published June 16 2016
Updated June 16 2016

ORLANDO — Javier Jorge-Reyes greeted friends with a catchphrase, Gracias por venir, "Thank you for coming." Omar Mateen railed against gay people

Jorge-Reyes kept track of the latest fashion. Mateen once aced a test at his local gun range, scoring 239 out of 240.

On Wednesday, loved ones mourned Jorge-Reyes at a funeral home while Mateen's father again struggled to explain why his son walked into a gay nightclub and killed Jorge-Reyes and 48 other people in the worst mass shooting in American history.

Authorities, meanwhile, continued to comb over the bloody interior of Pulse, the nightclub where the massacre happened. Investigators remained tight-lipped, releasing few details about the attack and lending little clarity to what happened when Mateen opened fire early Sunday on the hundreds of people partying inside.

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"Because this is an ongoing investigation," said Ronald Hopper, an assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Tampa Division, "there's much I still cannot share with you."

The investigation continues

Investigators have interviewed hundreds of people since the shooting Sunday, Hopper said, including Mateen's wife, Noor Zahi Salman.

CNN on Wednesday, citing unnamed law enforcement officials, said a grand jury will consider if she should face charges in connection with the attack.

But Lee Bentley III, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida, declined to say whether anyone would face charges. Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce, died in a gunbattle with police about three hours after he began shooting.

"Today I am not going to speculate with respect to any charges that might be brought," Bentley said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Some news reports have indicated that Salman may have known her husband bought the ammunition and had driven him to Pulse in the past.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer had said that Mateen told authorities that he strapped explosives on four hostages, according to the Associated Press, a new detail of what happened during a standoff with tactical teams Sunday morning. But Dyer did not speak about the specifics of the investigation during the news conference

Police Chief John Mina said the officers involved in the standoff underwent stress debriefings this week, and the department will have free counseling available to them.

'An extremely good shot'

A better picture of Mateen's history with guns emerged Wednesday when the state released licensing records from his work as a security guard that detailed an intense proficiency with weapons.

Mateen scored in the 98th percentile with a 9mm semiautomatic pistol — the same caliber as one of the guns authorities have said he used in the killings. He often notched top scores in both range and written examinations, the documents from the Department of Agriculture showed.

"He was an extremely good shot," said Steve Purl, a Dunedin private investigator and former firearms instructor. "Very few people can achieve those scores."

He also completed the exams at the same place, St. Lucie Shooting Center, that he purchased the weapons used in the attack at Pulse. The state records show that Mateen completed three firearms tests at the gun shop where federal officials have said he bought a Sig Sauer MCX .223-caliber rifle and Glock 17 9mm pistol in the days before the shootings.

To get a license to be a security guard authorized to carry a gun while on duty, as Mateen did in 2007, he had to take a psychiatric evaluation. Records show he completed either a written test or personal examination, although it is not clear what type of test was administered.

Shooter's father wavers on motive

After first learning that his son was involved in the attack on Pulse, Seddique Mateen said he did not believe religion was a factor. Instead, he said, he believed Omar was motivated by hatred for gay people.

On Wednesday, as he continued to struggle to explain Omar's motivations, Seddique changed course, saying his son was under the influence of the Islamic State terrorist group sometimes called ISIS. Asked about news reports saying Mateen frequented Pulse and used gay dating applications, the father said his son was not gay.

Omar Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State early Sunday in a 911 call from a bathroom where he had taken hostages, authorities have said.

"If there wasn't such a thing as ISIS . . . this would not have happened," Seddique Mateen said Wednesday.

His son, he said, along with the 49 people Omar Mateen shot, "were all victims of terrorism."

Memorials begin for victims

Vigils and surgeries and television interviews continued Wednesday in Orlando, a rhythm that has become familiar across the city this week.

Many questions remain, and Pulse is still a crime scene. The FBI vowed agents are working as quickly as possible so that the area around the club can return to some sense of normalcy as soon as possible.

Jorge-Reyes, 40, was one of the first victims to whom mourners paid respects on Wednesday afternoon. There had been threats of protests, of anti-gay crowds outside the funeral home.

So about 250 people showed up on the sidewalk, determined to keep hate away as his loved ones said farewell.

Times staff writers Dan Sullivan, Laura C. Morel and Loren Elliott contributed to this report, which also used information from the Associated Press.

   
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