Winstanley was not in the same room as Mateen that day. If he was caught celebrating something like that, he would have gotten beaten up.’’ Winstanley said he never saw signs of radicalization in Mateen in high school, adding, “I know Omar liked America.’’ He said the two once had a conversation about Mateen’s Muslim faith.
Friends and co-workers gave conflicting reports about Mateen’s religiosity and personality. But others described him chasing girls, going to parties and drinking.“He was fun,” said Ryan Jones, 27, who said he often went out with Mateen.One former student who was sitting in the same class as Mateen said he remembers the morning of 9/11 clearly: “Teachers said, ‘Turn on the TV.’ We see the one plane hit. But such memories don’t fit with those of Kenneth Winstanley, a friend of Mateen’s in junior high and high school, who said he did not recall Mateen celebrating the Sept.11 attacks and doubted his friend would have done that.“I don’t really know if he was doing it because he was being taught some stuff at home or just doing it for attention because he didn’t have a lot of friends. We weren’t really close friends, but friends at least a little,” he said. When he arrived at the dean’s office, Mateen was also there, apparently for saying rude things about Americans deserving to be attacked, said this student, who was not in the classroom to witness the comments.
“After 9/11 happened, he started changing and acting different.” At the time, Mateen was attending the Spectrum alternative school, a campus in Stuart, Fla., for students with behavioral issues. The first former classmate — who was in the classroom — vividly recalled Mateen’s father picking him up after he got in trouble. “And in the courtyard in front of everyone, the dad slapped him right across the face.” After that day, Zirkle said, “he kept doing it and saying crazy things. He was totally cool before 9/11, and then something changed.” Zirkle and others think Mateen was suspended or expelled from the school shortly afterward.Kevin West said he was in the parking lot at the Pulse nightclub at 1 a.m. The men had met more than a year ago when Mateen reached out to West on Jack’d, a dating app for men.They then lost touch until three months ago, when Mateen made contact again, mentioned that he would be in Orlando soon and suggested meeting for a drink.Former classmate Samuel King and his friends also hung out with Mateen at the mall, where Mateen worked at the GNC store after high school and King at Ruby Tuesday.Half the workers at the restaurant were openly gay, King said, including himself.But it didn’t work.” Court records released Monday depict a meandering life for Mateen after he left the alternative school.