Wednesday, June 15, 2016

TOP STORY >> Neighbor gets out alive from club shooting

Leader executive editor

Chris Hansen used to live in Jacksonville on Oak Street near The Leader before he moved to Orlando.

He’s the young man in the checked hat who survived the Saturday night massacre at the Pulse nightclub and has been giving interviews on TV. The Jacksonville High School graduate was shown carrying out injured patrons from the club and telling reporters his dad told him to zig-zag his way out of a firing line.

Both his dad William and his uncle Carl are veterans who know how to dodge bullets.

The shooting started around 2 a.m. Saturday. Witnesses said Omar Mateen, 29, had been drinking at the bar and came back with an assault rifle, a handgun and lots of ammunition.

“Everybody was scrambling” to get out of the nightclub, Hansen told interviewers.

“I was on the edge by the bathroom … kind of facing the bar, and as the gunman came in, he was shooting towards the dance floor, so it was easier for me to get out,” Hansen said. “After a couple shots, you just hear the ‘bang, bang, bang’ and you’re like, ‘OK, this isn’t the song. This is reality.’ And you hear the screaming and you see the blood and the guy next to me falls over … and you see those in the VIP area going down … and then that’s when I go down and I’m like, ‘I’ve got to crawl out of here’ … I wasn’t running … I’m not gonna be a moving target.”

It may have been sacrilegious for a Moslem man to drink alcohol, especially during the holy month of Ramadan at a gay club on Saturday night, but Mateen, whose parents moved to the U.S. from Afghanistan, blended in with the crowd since it was Latin night at the Pulse.

Look at the selfies Mateen posted on social media before the shooting. You could find those pictures on the Internet early Sunday morning even before the cable news channels put them on the air.

He did not seem out of place at a gay bar, which may be the reason why security guards didn’t stop him at the door.

Plus it was late. It was last call at the bar when he went outside and brought in his weapons from a rental van. Everybody was ready to go home, but not Mateen.

He massacred 49 people and injured more than 50 others, although doctors warned Tuesday that the death toll could rise.

He shot at half the people inside, killing about as many as he had injured, 90 percent of them Hispanics.

It appears Mateen frequented the club and, according to survivors, had looked for male companionship. A male dating site app was found on his phone.

His father, Seddique, says Mateen was not gay, but in Moslem culture, homosexuality is worse than murder. It’s as if the old man would rather have his son remembered as a terrorist than a closeted gay man.

“He was a homosexual and he was trying to pick up men,” one club regular said.

Mateen updated his profile on a gay dating app, but apparently most people he met said he was weird and belligerent and tried to avoid him.

He’d been married twice and may have told one of his wives that he planned an attack at the Pulse.

How did a Moslem man who’s been on the FBI’s watch list buy an arsenal of weapons and ammunition? He bought his assault rifle from Port St. Lucie Shooting Center, which is owned by a retired New York policeman who posted anti-Moslem views on Facebook.

The irony of an Islamophobe selling Mateen the weapon responsible for the biggest massacre in U.S. history isn’t lost on law-enforcement authorities.

Here’s a man who went to Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage and may have befriended a Florida man who became a suicide bomber in Syria.

Mateen’s background should have disqualified him from owning weapons in this country. His suspicious activities came to the attention of the FBI, but it didn’t consider him a terrorist threat.

Before police moved in on him at the club, Mateen proclaimed his allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call. ISIS became a convenient cover to hide his sexual orientation.