The FBI first became aware of suspected Pulse Nightclub shooter Omar Mateen three years ago, when co-workers at a Florida security company where he was employed complained he made inflammatory comments to them about having potential ties with terrorists, but an interviews with Mateen then and another time were "inconclusive," FBI agent Ron Hopper said during an afternoon press conference Sunday.
"The FBI investigated, including interviews of witnesses, physical surveillance and background checks," Hopper told reporters. "In the course of the investigation Mateen was interviewed twice. We were unable to verify the substance of his comments and the investigation was closed."
And then again in 2014, Mateen, the son of immigrants from Afghanistan, once again came to the attention of the FBI, because of possible ties to an American suicide bomber, but it was determined at that time that the contact was "minimal and did not constitute a threat," Hopper said.
Meanwhile, Hopper said the FBI is still investigating reports that Mateen made calls to 911 Sunday morning, in which he stated his allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
"We are looking into any and all connections domestic and international," said Hopper. "We will be as transparent as possible and as accurate as possible."
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer on Sunday afternoon called the attacks on the gay nightclub, where at least 50 people lost their lives, "the most difficult day in the history of Orlando," and thanked all emergency responders and law enforcement officials for their assistance.
"While it is difficult for all of us, it is the most difficult for those families that are still waiting for information on their loved ones," Dyer said. "As difficult as it is, I ask for patience and compassion and love. Pulse remains an active crime scene and law enforcement is working the scene as efficiently and as diligently as they possibly can while also being respectful of the remains of the deceased."
Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott, also at the press conference, termed the attacks, for which ISIS has claimed credit
, as being "clearly an act of terrorism."
"You can't imagine this happening in any community," said Scott. "You can't imagine it happening in your state, to the governor of a state, and can't imagine it happening in your country."
And he has a warning for any copycats: "Anybody thinking about doing something like this in our state our justice is swift, penalties severe. We have a great law enforcement team who will do the right thing."
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi echoed his statements.
"We are making it clear anyone who attacks our LGBT community, anyone who attacks anyone in our state will be gone after to the fullest extent of the law," Bondi said. "Today my office has been working, bringing in victims' advocates throughout the state of Florida here to Orlando. If you are missing a family member, a loved one, we will be here to help you. You're hearing on a horrible, tragic, violent day the word love. That's what we need to continue to do."
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said during the press conference that 11 police officers exchanged fire with Mateen and killed him, and have been relieved of duty as standard practice.
"They risked their lives for the people and patrons at Pulse," said Mina. "We are committed to do so again."
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said that the level of support has come from across the state and nation, as the shootings were not purely an attack on Florida or Orlando, but "this was an attack on our nation."
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