The FBI has told members of the LGBT community it will pursue accounts that the Orlando nightclub shooter was partially motivated by internal conflict over his own sexuality, the Guardian has learned.
A conference call held late on Monday pulled together representatives from the FBI and departments of justice and homeland security with 358 civil-rights-minded leaders, particularly from the LGBT and American Muslim groups, a senior US official told the Guardian, to share information and hear concerns from communities reeling from one of the worst incidents of gun violence in recent US history.
FBI officials on the call “indicated they would follow up” on reports that shooter Omar Mateen had on a number of occasions visited the LGBT nightclub Pulse where he killed 49 and wounded 52 on Sunday. That focus is thus far unprecedented in nearly 15 years of post-9/11 counter-terrorism, which has yet to confront a known case of a suspected closeted LGBT individual ostensibly committing a mass murder in the name of a homophobic terrorist organization.
According to a readout of the call, the Department of Homeland Security also said it was receiving “reports of anecdotal backlash from Muslim-American, Sikh, South Asian and Arab-American communities”. The US official said that on the call, Muslim leaders expressed “condolences and significant support” for LGBT communities in Orlando and beyond.
As the FBI continued to sift through evidence on Tuesday, Mateen’s second wife told investigators she attempted to dissuade him from his Sunday attack on revelers at Pulse, according to NBC.
In a statement in Washington, Barack Obama said there was as of yet no indication that Mateen had any ties or support from any terrorist group.
Officials close to the investigation note that unlike traveling to Iraq or Syria, there is no barrier to claiming inspiration from Isis, even as a pretext.
Disentangling Mateen’s motivations, at this point a major focus of the inquiry, is likely to be a complicated task, one that does not resemble the straightforward ideological drivers familiar to years of terror inquiries.