The gunman who opened fire at a gay Florida nightclub early Sunday, shooting over 100 people, had called 911 moments before to pledge allegiance to the leader of ISIS, law enforcement sources told NBC News.
But as investigators try to determine if extremism motivated Omar Mateen, 29, to attack the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, his family believes he was pushed over the edge by pure hate against the LGBT community.
Various law enforcement officials have identified the shooter as Mateen, who was born in New York and lived in Port St. Lucie on Florida’s eastern shores.
The attack, which claimed at least 50 lives, is considered the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. While authorities are still investigating what motivated the gunman, the shooting is being considered an act of terrorism.
Mateen, who was carrying a handgun and AR-15-type rifle, died after a SWAT team stormed the club, police said. The shooter, who worked in security, according to the family, had active security officer and firearms licenses, records show.
Records also show he had filed a petition for a name change in 2006 from Omar Mir Seddique to Omar Mir Seddique Mateen.
Because of his name and heritage, there were immediate questions about Mateen’s possible ties to Islamic fundamentalism — but his father said it may have been a recent incident involving two men showing each other affection that set the gunman off.
“We were in Downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music. And he saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry,” Mir Seddique, told NBC News on Sunday. “They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said, ‘Look at that. In front of my son they are doing that.’ And then we were in the men’s bathroom and men were kissing each other.”
“We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident,” Seddique said. “We weren’t aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country.”
Seddique added, “This had nothing to do with religion.”
Driving the point home that religion was a consideration in the mind of investigators, at a 10:30 a.m. news conference Saturday, officials brought a member of the Muslim community to speak.
Police did not explicitly say Mateen was Muslim, but Islamic groups put out statements against the carnage.
“We condemn this monstrous attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured. The Muslim community joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations Orlando Regional Coordinator Rasha Mubarak said in a statement.
Seddique said Mateen was a husband and father to a 3-year-old son. The family’s home in Port St. Lucie is less than two hours south of Orlando.
He worked in security and had attended Indian River State College, where he got an associate’s degree in criminal justice, his father added.
Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., whose district includes the area of the massacre, suggested to reporters that “more likely than not” the shooting spree at the nightclub was ideologically motivated.
“Let me put it this way,” he said, “the nationality of family members is indicative.”
The family’s background was not immediately clear, but Grayson said Mateen was a U.S. citizen.
Reoprted by nbcnews.com