Complaints, investigations not enough for Orlando nightclub shooter to lose his security job

Omar Mateen, 29, worked for G4S Secure Solutions USA, where he had a history of anger-related issues.
Omar Mateen, 29, worked for G4S Secure Solutions USA, where he had a history of anger-related issues.
Published Jun. 15, 2016

A former coworker said that that long before Omar Mateen became the deadliest mass shooter in U.S. history, he complained about Mateen's behavior, which included throwing things and denigrating women and minorities.

Five years later, the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office requested that Mateen's employer, G4S Secure Solutions USA, permanently take him off a courthouse guard rotation after Mateen made what Sheriff Ken J. Mascara called "inflammatory comments." The company immediately granted that request.

Mascara said his department then alerted federal law enforcement, leading to an FBI investigation into Mateen that was deemed inconclusive.

Still, G4S, a company with its own troubled history, allowed Mateen to keep working.

In a statement released one day after authorities say Mateen killed 49 people in an Orlando nightclub, company officials denied they were ever told that Mateen lashed out physically and verbally. They said that because the FBI's investigation into Mateen was closed in 2013, there was no need to take further action.

Company officials could not be reached for comment about Mascara's statement, issued Tuesday afternoon.

Mateen was investigated by the FBI about jihadi ties. No charges were filed, and he was allowed to legally purchase the AR-15 type assault rifle and 9mm semiautomatic handgun authorities say he used in the nightclub shootings. He was also able to keep his Florida armed security guard license.

Under state law, people applying to be armed security guards have to pass an initial mental health screening before being licensed by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. But it is up to the companies hiring them to ensure they are psychologically fit to carry a weapon for work when time comes to renew their license, said Casey Poulin, chief executive officer of the Critical Intervention Services security firm and chairman of the Florida Association of Security Companies.

Ralph Frasca, chief executive officer of Grand ISS, a St. Petersburg security firm, said that while the law doesn't require companies to report allegations of violent, disruptive or abusive behavior to the state, "I would feel duty bound to do so."

Agriculture officials, who have the ability to investigate security guards and companies, did not answer questions Tuesday about Mateen or G4S.

Mateen, according to G4S, was off-duty at the time of his rampage inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. And before that, he "was subject to detailed company screening when he was recruited in 2007 and rescreened in 2013 with no adverse findings," according to a statement on the company website. "He was also subject to checks by a U.S. law enforcement agency with no findings reported to G4S."

Shortly after hiring Mateen in September 2007, G4S placed him at the St. Lucie County Courthouse, manning the metal detectors at the front. Daniel Gilroy, a former coworker, told the Tampa Bay Times that before long, Mateen was involved in an incident with a black colleague and was sent to man the gate at the PGA Village neighborhood in St. Lucie West.

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Mateen had what Gilroy called a "vulgar mouth" and a deep well of anger.

He said Mateen would smack things in the guard house when he got angry and used slurs to describe gay people, blacks, Jews and women.

Gilroy says he complained to his supervisors at G4S about Mateen's behavior. The company denied that in a statement.

"G4S has no record of any complaint by Mr. Gilroy about Mr. Mateen," the company said. "And further, Mr. Gilroy is on record on June 2015, shortly after leaving G4S, as saying, 'The work and job assignments were respectful and co-workers were good men and women that put in an honest day's work and genuinely like to work as a team and contribute.' "

The company acknowledged that in 2013, it learned Mateen had been questioned by the FBI but said it was never told why.

The investigation was eventually closed, and "we were not made aware of any alleged connections between Mateen and terrorist activities, and were unaware of any further FBI investigations."

Records and media accounts show Mateen is one of several G4S employees who have exhibited violent behavior over the years.

"While G4S employs many guards who do a professional job and abide by the terms of their contracts, it has a disturbing record of employing people with a history of racism, violence and/or criminality," the Guardian newspaper reported in 2012. "It has an equally disturbing history of employing individuals who kill while in their employ, or restrain people in a manner that results in death."

The company was also criticized for failing to provide enough guards at the 2012 Olympics in London. And there have been local problems as well.

The company, which provides security services for the Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas County sheriff's offices, is a defendant in two negligence suits filed in Pinellas County.

One involves an intoxicated man transported by the Pinellas Sheriff's Office who died in 2013 after being beaten by an inmate in a van driven by a G4S employee. Earlier this year, G4S Youth Services suspended four employees after two teenaged boys escaped from a company-managed juvenile detention facility in Tampa through a hole in a chain-link fence.

And two years ago, a woman who works at a different G4S Security-managed youth facility in Tampa was investigated for having sex with a boy who was a resident.

Times senior researcher John Martin contributed to this report.