Gun Store Refused Mateen Weeks Before Orlando Shooting

| by Sarah Zimmerman
An updated photo from Mateen's Myspace pageAn updated photo from Mateen's Myspace page

Almost five weeks before killing 49 people in an Orlando nightclub, Omar Mateen was refused service from a local gun shop near his Florida home because, according to the shop's owner, he appeared "very suspicious."

Yahoo! News reports that when Mateen was told that the store didn't carry the body armor he asked about, he made a phone call in a foreign language and then asked about purchasing bulk ammunition.

Staff members felt uncomfortable with Mateen's questions and Robbie Abell, co-owner of Lotus Gunworks, said to “shut him down on all sales," according to the Wall Street Journal.

Abell added that it was his right to refuse service to Mateen. “If something is suspicious, it’s our discretion,” he said. “We are the gatekeeper.”

After Mateen's bizarre visit, Abell decided to contact the local FBI office in West Palm Beach to report what happened. Yahoo! News notes that it was difficult to make a full report as they never asked the man's name and the surveillance footage of the incident was extremely grainy. Abell claims that there was a follow-up conversation with FBI agents, but nobody ever visited the store or seemed interested in investigating further.

After the mass shooting on June 12, staffers recognized Mateen as the man who was in their store only weeks earlier. Although they once again attempted to reach out to the FBI, Yahoo! News reports that the surveillance tape had been overwritten at that point.

The FBI has recently been under fire for determining that Mateen was not a threat after investigating him on two separate occasions in 2013 and 2014 for ties to extremism. According to Yahoo! News, FBI Director James Comey said that there was not anything his "agents should have done differently."

Abell said his team had "done [its] job" by contacting the appropriate authorities, and regretted the fact that "[Mateen] slipped through the cracks."

Sources: Yahoo! News, The Wall Street Journal / Photo credit: ABC News via Yahoo! News

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