The Orlando shooter's classmates speak: 'We joked that he'd become a terrorist. And then he did'

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – JUNE 12: Orlando police officers seen outside of Pulse nightclub after a fatal shooting and hostage situation on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The suspected shooter, Omar Mateen, was shot and killed by police. 50 people are reported dead and 53 were injured. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

Some of Omar Mateen’s former grade-school classmates are talking in a new report that gives a glimpse into the Orlando shooter’s troubled life.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed dozens of people who knew Mateen throughout his life, including colleagues, classmates, and family members.

Those who knew him in school in Port St. Lucie, Florida suggested he had a tendency for threats and violent outbursts.

He was disciplined at school 31 times between 1992 and 1999, The Journal reported. He was convicted of battery in juvenile court for after getting in a fight with a fellow student. And he was suspended for a total of 48 days between 1999 and 2001.

He cheered in class after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and claimed Osama bin Laden was his uncle, prompting the school to call his father, according to The Journal’s report.

“We joked that he’d become a terrorist. And then he did,” said Robert Zirkle, who knew Mateen through school in 2001.

“He was a mean, troubled child. Scary,” said Billie Miller, another classmate.

One of Mateen’s former teachers, Kathleen Zurich, described him as a bully who called other students “ugly” and “gay.” But he also had a softer side, she said.

“That’s the scary part,” she said. “There was a nice side of him that you can see, and yet he can be so nasty. Almost like a Dr. Jekyll and Hyde personality.”

Read the full Wall Street Journal report here.

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