(CNSNews.com) - FBI Director James Comey said at a press conference Monday that his agency conducted a 10-month investigation in May 2013 of the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, during which time he blamed his statements of aspirational martyrdom on coworkers he felt were teasing him.
“We first became aware of him in May of 2013. He was working as a contract security guard at a local courthouse, and he made some statements that were inflammatory and contradictory that concerned his co-workers about terrorism,” Comey said.
“First he claimed family connections to al Qaeda. He also said he was a member of Hizbollah, which is a Shia terrorist organization that is a bitter enemy of the so-called Islamic State – ISIL. He said he hoped that law enforcement would raid his apartment and assault his wife and child so that he could martyr himself,” Comey added.
“When this was reported to us, the FBI’s Miami office opened a preliminary investigation, and over the next 10 months, we attempted to determine whether he was possibly a terrorist – something we do in hundreds and hundreds of cases all across the country,” Comey said.
“Our investigation involved introducing confidential sources to him, recording conversations with him, following him, reviewing transactional records from his communications and searching all government holdings for any possible connections, any possible derogatory information. We then interviewed him twice,” Comey added.
Comey said during the FBI’s interview, Mateen admitted to making the statements his coworkers reported, but said “he did it in anger, because he thought his coworkers were discriminating against him and teasing him because he was Muslim.”
“After 10 months of investigation, we closed the preliminary investigation,” Comey said. “Two months later, in July of 2014, the killer’s name surfaced again in an indirect way.”
The FBI’s Miami office was investigating a Florida man – a suicide bomber who had “blown himself up for the Nusra Front in Syria – again the Nusra Front being an al Qaeda group in conflict with ISIL,” Comey said.
“We learned from the investigation that the killer knew him casually from attending the same mosque in that area of Florida, but our investigation turned up no ties of any consequence between the two of them,” Comey added.
“In the course of that investigation, one witness told us when asked do you know anybody else who might be radicalizing, that he had once been concerned about the killer, because the killer had mentioned Awlaki videos, but the witness had concluded that he later got married and had a child and got a job as a security guard, and so he was no longer concerned about him,” Comey said.
“Our investigation again turned and interviewed the killer to find out whether he had any significant contacts with the suicide bomber for Al Nusra, determined that he did not, and the inquiry continued, focusing on the suicide bomber, with no further focus on the Orlando killer,” the FBI director said.
Comey also said it is “not entirely clear” right now which terrorist group that Mateen aspired to support despite telling a 911 operator that he pledged his loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“It is also not entirely clear at this point just what terrorist group he aspired to support although he made clear his affinity at the time of the attack for ISIL and generally leading up to the attack for radical Islamist groups,” Comey said.
Mateen fatally shot 50 people and injured more than 50 others at Pulse, a gay nightclub on Sunday, in what is considered the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
“He made 911 calls from the club during the attack at about 2:30 in the morning, Sunday morning, and there were three different calls. He called, and he hung up. He called again and spoke briefly with the dispatcher, and then he hung up. And then the dispatcher called him back again, and they spoke briefly. So there were three total calls,” Comey explained.
“During the calls, he said he was doing this for the leader of ISIL, who he named and pledged loyalty to, but he also appeared to claim solidarity with the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing and solidarity with a Florida man, who died as a suicide bomber in Syria for Al Nusra Front, a group in conflict with the so-called Islamic State. The bombers at the Boston Marathon, and the suicide bomber in Florida were not inspired by ISIL, which adds a little bit to the confusion about his motives,” Comey added.
During the press conference, Comey refused to say the killer’s name, saying “part of what motivates sick people to do this kind of thing is some twisted notion of fame or glory, and I don’t want to be part of that for the sake of the victims and their families, and so that other twisted minds don’t think that this is a path to fame and recognition.”
The FBI is also working to “understand what role anti-gay bigotry may have played in motivating this attack – an attack that occurred during the very months when we recognize and celebrate our LGBT brothers and sisters.”
Comey said his agency is confident that Mateen “was radicalized and at least in some part through the internet.”
The FBI is looking at its own investigation to see whether there was something they should have done differently.
“So far, the honest answer is I don’t think so,” Comey said. “I don’t see anything in reviewing our work that our agents should have done differently, but we’ll look at it in an open and honest way and be transparent about it.”
“Our work is very challenging. We are looking for needles in a nationwide haystack, but we’re also called upon to see which pieces of hay might someday become needles. That is hard work. If we can find a way to do that better, we will,” he said.