Massacre aftermath: Stress-counseling, huge investigation
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Police offered stress counseling and debriefing Wednesday to the SWAT team and other officers who witnessed the nightclub carnage, as the FBI tried to reconstruct the killer’s movements and figure out what role his wife may have played in the plot.
A long procession of memorials and funerals for the 49 killed in Sunday’s shooting rampage began taking shape, with mourners scheduled to pay their respects at a visitation for a victim remembered as a friendly salesman and makeup artist.
The FBI said it is still gathering evidence at the Pulse and analyzing cellphone location data to piece together Omar Mateen’s activities leading up to the massacre, while also interviewing people who had any dealings with him. It urged anyone with any information about the gunman to contact the bureau.
“We need your help in developing the most complete picture of what he did and why he did it,” FBI agent Ron Hopper said.
Members of the SWAT team underwent a stress-management debriefing Wednesday, as hundreds of others involved in the response to the shooting have done, Police Chief John Mina said. Further counseling is being made available.
“These are some of the bravest toughest men I know,” Mina said. “No one can prepare you for what those officers encountered that night. They stood toe-to-toe and went face-to-face with a mass murderer, and I’m extremely proud of that.”
A key topic for investigators is how much Mateen’s Palestinian-American wife may have known about the plot.
An official who was briefed on the case but insisted on anonymity to discuss a continuing investigation said authorities believe 30-year-old U.S.-born Noor Salman knew ahead of time about the attack.
Investigators have spoken extensively with her and are working to establish whether she recently accompanied Mateen to the gay dance club, said a second official who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
At a news conference Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley repeatedly refused to say whether charges might be brought against the wife or anyone else. He said authorities are talking to hundreds of people and investigating everyone associated with Mateen, including family, friends and business associates.
Salman has been in seclusion for days.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said Mateen drove around the Orlando area Saturday evening, going from one place to another, before he opened fire at the gay nightspot about 2 a.m. Sunday. The attack ended with the 29-year-old American-born Muslim being killed by a SWAT team.
Orlando is nearly a two-hour drive from Mateen’s home in Fort Pierce, Florida.
When asked exactly where Mateen visited, and whether the locations included theme parks as reported in news accounts, the mayor said: “I think it’s been pretty accurately depicted on the news.” He gave no further details.
Mateen called 911 during the attack to claim allegiance to the Islamic State group, but exactly what was going through his head could prove more complicated, with his ex-wife saying he was mentally ill, his father suggesting he hated gays, and some Pulse patrons reporting that he was a regular at the club and used gay dating apps.
In other developments:
– Florida documents obtained by The Associated Press under open-records laws show that Mateen passed a psychological evaluation in 2007 as part of his application to be a security guard. The records say he took a written psychological test or was evaluated by a psychologist or psychiatrist.
– Orlando TV producer Matt Gentili of CFN 13 said Mateen called during his standoff to say he was doing it for the Islamic State. The station’s managing editor traced the call back to a number associated with Mateen, according to NY 1 News, CFN 13’s sister operation in New York. The FBI’s Hopper declined to comment on calls Mateen made during the rampage.
– A newly unearthed clip from a film documentary about the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico shows Mateen – then working security for the cleanup – talking cynically about people making money off disasters.
The excerpt from 2012’s “The Big Fix” shows Mateen telling a woman that everyone is “hoping for more oil to come out and more people to complain so they’ll have the jobs.” Security firm G4S confirmed that it’s Mateen, saying he was stationed in Pensacola in 2010 to assist with cleanup.
Wednesday night’s visitation was among the first chances for loved ones to pay respects to a victim. Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40, was known as Javi and had worked as a salesman at a Gucci store and as a makeup artist, friends told the Orlando Sentinel.
The medical examiner began releasing bodies to families on Tuesday. The mayor offered victims’ families the opportunity to have the 49 victims buried together at a city cemetery.
An assistance center for victims’ families was opened at a stadium to help with grief counseling, funeral arrangements, transportation and other needs.