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13 Jun, 2016 14:00

Orlando shooter Omar Mateen not first G4S employee to go on deadly rampage

Orlando shooter Omar Mateen not first G4S employee to go on deadly rampage

Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen is not the first employee of British security giant G4S to go on a rampage. Sunday morning’s attack in Florida has raised questions over the quality of vetting procedures among the firm’s recruits.

The Orlando killer is believed to be 29-year-old Omar Mateen, an Afghan-American G4S security guard. The killing spree, carried out with apparently legally acquired automatic rifles, claimed the lives of 49 partygoers and injured 53 according to the latest figures. The gunman was also killed.

Mateen is reported to have been shot dead after police stormed the club in a bid to rescue 30 hostages being held there. Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has since claimed responsibility for the attacks, though Mateen’s connection with the terror group is not yet clear.

Mateen’s ex-wife Sitora YuSufi has since told the press that during their four-month marriage he repeatedly abused her, was emotionally unstable  and displayed signs of bipolar disorder. She also said he expressed anger towards gay people.

Despite that, and the fact he had reportedly been investigated by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 over comments he had made to work colleagues extolling extremist ideology, Mateen had worked for G4S since 2007.

The British firm is one of the world’s biggest military and security providers. It employs more than half a million people – many of them ex-military – in 110 countries including conflict zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. It has been rocked by repeated controversy.

The firm’s shares plunged to a seven year low in the wake of its admission that Mateen was an employee, losing £200 million.

Orlando may be the worst atrocity attributed to a G4S employee, but it is not the first.

In 2009 former paratrooper Danny Fitzsimons – an employee of Armour Group, a division of G4S – was convicted of killing two colleagues and sentenced to life in prison.

According to human rights NGO Reprieve, Fitzsimons was employed by the mercenary firm despite having been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in May 2008 – the same month G4S took over Armour Group.

He is thought to have developed the condition after exposure to a number of brutal events as a combatant in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Some 36 hours after arriving in Baghdad as a mercenary in 2009, Fitzsimmons killed fellow security operators Paul McGuigan and Darren Hoare following what was reported to have been a drunken brawl.

It emerged in 2012 following a BBC investigation that emails had been sent to Armour Group by G4S warning them not to employ Fitzsimons.

A whistleblower warned of previous convictions – including a firearms offense and assault – and mental instability. Fitzsimmon had previously been discharged from the army for drug-related offenses.

In 2015 a former senior figure in G4S who resigned over the firm’s 2012 Olympic security failures said there had been major failings in the firm’s vetting processes.

Former G4S CEO David Taylor Smith told the inquest into the killings that staff did not believe the Fitzsimons case was isolated.

Taylor Smith claimed an internal audit of recruitment files revealed 304 out of 527 had failed to meet basic standards while 44 percent had not had their criminal records checked.

RT asked G4S about current vetting process used by the firm in reference to both the Mateen and Fitzsimons cases.

A spokesman said given the radically different operating environments in Iraq and the mainland US it is important not to conflate the two cases.  

However, he said all staff undergo thorough tests including criminal records, right to work, identity and the Minnesota multiphasic personality inventory test – a well-regarded psychometric assessment process.

The spokesman also restated the G4S position that Mateen was “re-screened” in 2013, the first year in which he was reportedly questioned by the FBI.

When RT asked about Mateen’s interrogation by America’s internal security force, the spokesman said “you will have to talk to the FBI about that.

Human rights lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith has for many years campaigned on the issue of US detention facility Guantanamo Bay where, incidentally, G4S has also provided services.

He told RT: “[I am] sad to say, my experience with G4S does not inspire confidence that they carry out a sufficient check of the mental history of those seeking to carry weapons in their employment.

By Joe Glenton, RT