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New Details Emerge About Orlando Gunman Omar Mateen


And my co-host Ari Shapiro is in Orlando. He visited a family there whose daughter died in the attack. She had just graduated high school. And she went to the Pulse Nightclub that night to dance and celebrate. We will hear from that family in just a moment.

We're going to start now with new information that the man behind the mass shooting at Pulse might have been struggling with his sexuality. There are reports that Omar Mateen was a regular visitor to the same gay nightclub where he opened fire and killed 49 people. NPR's Jeff Brady has the latest.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: There are at least five men in Orlando who now say they saw Mateen at the Pulse in the years before he launched Sunday's attack. There also are reports that Mateen used gay hookup and dating apps like Grindr and Jack'd. Jim Van Horn told the Associated Press he met Mateen.


JIM VAN HORN: He was trying to pick up people, men. He's a homosexual, and he was trying to pick up men. He would walk up to them, and then he would maybe put his arm around them or something and maybe try to get them to dance a little bit or something and then go over to him, buy a drink or something. That's what people do at gay bars.

BRADY: Two U.S. officials with knowledge of the investigation say witnesses have also told them Mateen was a regular at the nightclub. But officials have not ruled out that Mateen may have been there to case the club. And there are others who warn against jumping to conclusions, including Chris Mistery.

CHRIS MISTERY: I've lived in this town for a long time. And I've gone to Pulse many, many, many, many, many, many times, and I've never seen him, never.

BRADY: So think it's just not true.

MISTERY: I do. I think it's just something that someone said and then the media grabbed onto.

BRADY: Still, the reports persist, and Rob Domenico with the LGBT Center in Orlando says he's not surprised that Mateen may have been secretly gay.

ROB DOMENICO: Not at all because I have many beautiful friends of Muslim descent, you know, different Middle Eastern backgrounds who live completely closeted lives. They have wives and children, and behind the scenes, they're living the gay lifestyle secretly.

BRADY: There are mental health experts who say it makes sense that Mateen may have been in the closet. Susan Heitler is a clinical psychologist in Denver. She wrote an article for Psychology Today a few years back titled "How Do Sex And Power Abuses Lead To Terrorism And War?" Heitler says first think about Mateen's choice to target a gay nightclub.

SUSAN HEITLER: Why would someone pick to kill off gay men - because he's trying to - (laughter) as a psychologist, he's trying to kill off the gay part within himself.

BRADY: Heitler says sexuality for some young Muslim men can be especially problematic because of their culture. She says a young man can become conflicted by repressing his sexuality. She says that can lead to terrible feelings of guilt and shame.

HEITLER: How do you get out of all of that? You commit suicide, the ultimate expression of depression and hopelessness. But you commit suicide in a way that you're society sees you as a hero.

BRADY: Before Mateen was killed, he talked with the 911 operator and pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State. Heitler says Mateen may have concluded that this attack was a way to turn years of torturous feeling into a few in the Muslim world would see as a form of glory.

But we're talking speculation here, and it may not be possible to know what was going on with Mateen before his death. One thing is certain. His motives may be a lot more complicated than many first assumed. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Orlando. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.