Melissa Jeltsen writes in the Huffington Post that “Everyone Got The Pulse Massacre Story Completely Wrong.” I live a couple of blocks away from Pulse. I’ve performed there, have friends that worked and frequented the club…almost everyone that lives in Orlando knows someone who was there when Omar Mateen opened fire with an AR-15 style SGC MCX semi-automatic rifle, killing 49 and wounding another 53.
The LGBTQ community in Orlando was hit hardest by the attack…Pulse was widely known as a gay-friendly nightclub, although probably third or fourth in the list of most popular gay clubs in town. It is located in an area south of downtown, in an area known more as the home of the Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC), fast food restaurants and Super Target than nightclubs.
Almost overnight, a narrative emerged that until now has been impossible to dislodge: Mateen planned and executed an attack on Pulse because he hated gay people.
“Let’s say it plainly: This was a mass slaying aimed at LGBT people,” Tim Teeman wrote in The Daily Beast. The massacre was “undeniably a homophobic hate crime,” Jeet Heer wrote in The New Republic. Some speculated that Mateen was a closeted gay man. He was likely “trying to reconcile his inner feelings with his strongly homophobic Muslim culture,” James S. Robbins wrote in USA Today.
The recent trial and acquittal of Mateen’s widow in Federal Court in Orlando has reopened the partially healed wounds of many in Orlando’s gay community, and hearing that his motive may not have been driven by homophobia, but rather his ties to Islam, is of little comfort to those still mourning.
Salman’s trial cast doubt on everything we thought we knew about Mateen. There was no evidence he was a closeted gay man, no evidence that he was ever on Grindr. He looked at porn involving older women, but investigators who scoured Mateen’s electronic devices couldn’t find any internet history related to homosexuality. (There were daily, obsessive searches about ISIS, however.) Mateen had extramarital affairs with women, two of whom testified during the trial about his duplicitous ways.
I was surprised to learn that the shooting was not classified as a “hate crime” at all. In fact…
…the 2016 Hate Crimes in Florida Report does not include the 49 victims of the Pulse shooting in its official total. “These crimes were not classified as hate crimes by the Orlando Police Department in the Uniform Crime Reporting Information System.”
So what about all those stories of Omar Mateen being a “regular” at Pulse? Well, as the article puts it,
As far as investigators could tell, Mateen had never been to Pulse before, whether as a patron or to case the nightclub. Even prosecutors acknowledged in their closing statement that Pulse was not his original target; it was the Disney Springs shopping and entertainment complex. They presented evidence demonstrating that Mateen chose Pulse randomly less than an hour before the attack. It is not clear he even knew it was a gay bar. A security guard recalled Mateen asking where all the women were, apparently in earnest, in the minutes before he began his slaughter.