Florida shop refused to sell guns to ‘very odd’ Orlando attacker

© Jim Young
A gun store in Florida turned away Omar Mateen weeks before he attacked an Orlando gay nightclub because he acted odd and asked unusual questions. The store owner said he also alerted the authorities.

The attacker who killed 49 people and injured 53 more at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, was identified as Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Florida. A gun store in nearby Port St. Lucie confirmed he purchased the Glock 17 handgun and the Sig Sauer MCX rifle from them a week earlier, passing the background check.

At Lotus Gunworks of South Florida, however, the staff turned Mateen away after he began asking unusual questions about body armor and ammunition, Robbie Abell told the Wall Street Journal. His shop in Jensen Beach is a half an hour’s drive from Fort Pierce.

“The questions he was asking were not the normal questions a normal person would be asking,” said Abell. “He just seemed very odd.”

Mateen inquired about heavy-duty body armor, typically used by law enforcement, Abell said. Lotus Gunworks does not sell that type of armor, but refused to sell Mateen bulk ammunition because of his strange behavior.

The store “shut him down on all sales,” Abell said, citing the store manager on duty that day.

According to Abell, Mateen had a phone conversation while he was in the store, and appeared to be speaking in Arabic.

“If something is suspicious, it’s our discretion,” he added. “We are the gatekeeper.”

Lotus Gunworks had been in touch with the authorities following Mateen’s visit, and also after the shooting, Abell said. He did not specify which authorities, however.

What action the local and federal law enforcement may have taken about Abell’s warning is unknown.
Though Mateen was interviewed by the FBI on several occasions, his name was removed from the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database in 2014.  With no flags next to his name in federal databases, Mateen was able to buy the weapons and ammunition legally, a week before he walked into the nightclub and opened fire on the patrons.

“We follow the rules, we don’t make the rules,” Ed Henson, owner of St. Lucie Shooting Center, told reporters at a press conference Monday afternoon. "He’s evil. We just happen to be the gun store he picked.”