A gun store owner who reported Orlando shooter Omar Mateen to authorities weeks before the massacre has said that the FBI did not investigate the store and that no copies of surveillance had been taken.
Robbie Abell, co-owner of Lotus Gunworks, told ABC news that while there was a follow-up conversation with agents, the FBI never visited the south Florida store after he alerted them and failed to investigate further.
Mateen came into the store in May and asked for heavy-duty body armor like the kind used by law enforcement, which they did not sell.
After the 29-year-old was denied he asked to buy bulk ammunition. The request was shut down by staff who refused to sell him anything else.
Speaking Thursday Abell said: ‘He slipped through the cracks.’
He also told how staffers had contacted the FBI after the shooting to remind them about their run-in but the store’s surveillance tape had since been overwritten.
Mateen had already been investigated by the FBI years before.
But even after Abell’s report, the 29-year-old self-radicalized gunman obtained an AR-15 and a semiautomatic pistol from another store in the area, bought stacks of ammunition, then opened fire on Pulse nightclub, where he killed 49 people and wounded 53.
Abell told theWall Street Journal: ‘The questions he was asking were not the normal questions a normal person would be asking…He just seemed very odd.’
Abell also said Mateen was speaking to someone on the phone in Arabic and was walking around the store texting.
Mateen is of Afghan descent, where the official languages are Pashto and Dari. It is not clear how Abell’s staff deduced he was speaking Arabic.
He added that staff were on high alert since authorities has recently warned them to look out for suspicious activity in the area.
Abell did not specify which authorities gave this warning.
Port St Lucie police said they did not receive a report about Mateen’s suspicious behavior.
The FBI has yet to comment.
Once it emerged that Mateen was the perpetrator of the worst mass shooting in history, Abell said, Lotus staff instantly recognized him and reported their experience to the FBI.
He added that he was glad they did what they could to block him.
‘If something is suspicious, it’s our discretion. We are the gatekeeper,’ Abell told the Journal.
Mateen bought his murder weapons from St Lucie Shooting Center days before his attack.
Ed Henson, the reitred NYPD officer who owns St Lucie Shooting Center, defended himself in the wake of the massacre saying, ‘I don’t make the laws.’
He insisted he put Mateen through the necessary background checks before selling him an AR-15 and a semiautomatic pistol.
Detectives have also been investigating whether there were explosives at the scene after witnesses said Mateen threatened to rig himself and his hostages with bombs.