The ex-wife of the man suspected of attacking a gay Orlando nightclub early Sunday morning told CNN’s Don Lemon that she “definitely questioned” her husband’s sexuality “in her own head” while they were married.
Lemon had asked Sitora Yusufiy — the ex-wife of the suspected gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen — whether Mateen had exhibited any gay tendencies while they were married, amid reports that Mateen was a regular at the gay club, Pulse, and used several gay dating apps.
“I’m not going to lie,” Yusufiy said. “I definitely questioned it in my own head when I was with him and wondered if he is [gay] because he would do a lot of things — little things, you know, but that would definitely make any woman question if he was or not.”
Yusufiy said that Mateen would behave in a way “that normal straight men wouldn’t.”
“He loved to look at himself. He loved to take pictures of himself which some straight men do, too, but to a certain extent,” she added.
Mateen’s MySpace page — where he and Yusufiy, who is from New Jersey, initially connected — is filled with photos he took of himself, posing in front of the mirror.
“From knowing him from seven years ago, I knew how unstable he was and it doesn’t surprise me that he might be gay,” Yusufiy said. “It doesn’t surprise me that he was leading two totally different lives and was in such deep conflict within himself.”
Yusufiy said Mateen was extremely violent with her throughout their short-lived marriage. He would “torture” her, she said, and physically abuse her while she was on the phone with her parents.
One of the first times Mateen abused her, she told Lemon, was when they were in a supermarket together and she wandered into a different aisle: “He grabbed my wrist and he dug his finger nails in between my veins and made me surrender,and told me to not go far from him ever again.”
In a previous interview with CNN, Yusufiy had described Mateen as “bipolar.” She told Lemon that questions she had about why he was so abusive and angry are now “somewhat being answered” by everything being uncovered — particularly revelations about his double life frequenting Pulse and using gay dating apps.
“To me, personally, with everything that I went through and everything that I saw and experienced daily, it makes sense,” she said. “He did have a different side of him that he could not open up to his father about, the fact that he liked to go to night clubs, the fact that he loved to drink. These were not things that were welcome in his family’s structure at all, and especially any indication of homosexuality.”
His father, Seddique Mateen, has given several interviews in the wake of his son’s attack on the nightclub. He has been heavily scrutinised for comments he made on Facebook on Monday in which he denounced his son’s actions by saying it was up to God, and not his son, to punish gay people.
Seddique — who is politically outspoken and recently declared his candidacy for the Afghan presidency in a YouTube video — clarified his comments later, saying that although “the general rule of thumb is that God created man for woman, woman for man,” he “doesn’t judge anybody by the way they live.”
Based on Seddique’s insinuation on Facebook that gay people will be punished by God, however, many have speculated that he may have projected bigotry onto his son – who may have internalized, repressed, and resented his own sexuality as a result.
Performers and regulars at Pulse told reporters in the days following the attack that Mateen had been coming to the nightclub at least once or twice a month for three years, and would get so drunk that he would have to be escorted out.
“We didn’t really talk to him a lot,” one witness, Ty Smith, told the Orlando Sentinel. “But I remember him saying things about his dad at times. He told us he had a wife and child.” Smith
later told The Canadian Press that Mateen said he ” couldn’t drink when he was at home – around his wife, or family. His father was really strict.”
Yusufiy, the ex-wife, corroborated those claims in her interview with Lemon.
“Everything in the family structure was about perfection,” she said. “In Islam, homosexuality is not that tolerated, and especially when somebody is a political figure like Omar’s father was. It was really looked down upon and disgraced and could shame the entire family just knowing that one person in your family is homosexual.”
She added: “It’s definitely not welcome and, you know, they definitely express[ed] their intolerance and disagreed with it, with that way of life.”
Mateen was re-married to 30-yer-old Noor Salman in 2013. Salman told the FBI that she knew of Mateen’s plans to attack the club before he acted, but that she tried to talk him out of it. Investigators may bring criminal charges against her as soon as Wednesday. She and Mateen have a three-year-old son.
Mateen was living in Fort Pierce, Florida, when he rented a car and drove to Orlando to carry out the attack on Sunday morning. He was armed with an assault-style rifle and a handgun that he had legally bought days before. He was a security guard and had a Florida firearms licence that allowed him to carry concealed weapons.
He called 911 and a local TV news station during his rampage at Pulse and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. In his call to 911 he also expressed sympathy for the Boston Marathon bombers and an American suicide bomber who was aligned with Al Qaeda in Syria. He was investigated by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 for suspected ties to terrorists.
The attack was the deadliest mass shooting in US history.
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