A shooting survivor told The Associated Press on Friday that when he saw a picture of Orlando nightclub gunman Omar Mateen on television the day after the shooting, he recognized him as the same man he saw having a drink at the bar earlier in the night.
His account could not immediately be verified. The FBI declined to comment and has not provided a timeline accounting for Mateen’s movements that night.
Felipe Marrero told The AP his account in an interview from his hospital bed. He said Mateen was drinking at the Pulse bar next to him the night 49 club-goers were killed and 53 others wounded, including Marrero. He didn’t remember an exact time but said it was early in the evening.
The 30-year-old Marrero was shot four times in the back, and his left arm badly damaged by bullets. He’s currently at Orlando Regional Medical Center undergoing surgeries and physical therapy. Marrero says when he saw a picture of Mateen on television the day after the shooting, he recognized him. “I said `This guy was right next to me buying a drink,”‘ Marrero said.
The FBI is confirming that agents spoke last month with a Florida gun shop where Mateen asked to buy body armor and about 1,000 rounds of ammunition. But the FBI says store employees did not provide any information about him, preventing “any meaningful investigative follow up.”
Lotus Gunworks has said it turned Mateen away because it did not carry the style of body armor he wanted and referred him elsewhere. Store officials told the FBI about the encounter last month when agents followed up on an unrelated investigative matter.
However, the store did not have his name, date of birth, telephone number or other information. The shop notified the FBI after the shooting to say that the unknown man who had visited them resembled the nightclub shooter.
A person familiar with the FBI’s investigation says Mateen’s wife text messaged him on the night of the shooting, asking Mateen where he was and telling him she loved him. The person was not authorized to publicly discuss the probe and spoke Friday on condition of anonymity.
The timing of the texts, which are part of the FBI’s investigation, was not immediately clear. Other media outlets, citing anonymous sources, have reported the couple exchanged texts during the rampage and hostage situation.
The FBI has been investigating how much Noor Salman knew about the plot. The gunman called 911 and a television station and posted to Facebook during the siege.