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Fla. sheriff: Mateen's comments on Fort Hood shooting worried cops

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/16/2016 Elliott Jones
Omar Mateen, the gunman in the Orlando nightclub shooting, appeared as a security guard in the 2012 documentary 'The Big Fix' about the 2010 Big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico © The Big Fix Omar Mateen, the gunman in the Orlando nightclub shooting, appeared as a security guard in the 2012 documentary 'The Big Fix' about the 2010 Big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — It was well known among law enforcement officers back in 2005 that Omar Mateen had an interest in a career as a deputy, Sheriff Ken Mascara said.

Mateen received an Associate of Science degree in criminal justice technology from what was then Indian River Community College in 2006. The college was renamed Indian River State College in 2008.

At Mateen's request, the Sheriff's Office allowed him to ride around in a patrol car with an on-duty deputy to see what real-life law enforcement work was like.

"He was vetted by us before the ride-along," Mascara said. "Participants undergo a background check through the Florida Crime Information Center and National Crime Information Center, and sign a release of liability agreement."

That ride led to Mateen being slightly injured.

While in the car, the deputy had to speed off at 60 mph to a rollover traffic accident with injuries. The patrol car had to swerve, lost control and struck a safety rail and tree at Kings Highway and Vinedale Lane.

Mateen was examined at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce.

The Sheriff's Office encounter with Mateen back then wasn't the only one.

In 2013, Mateen, then 26, was working as a private security guard for G4S Secure Solutions USA, Inc. at the St. Lucie County Courthouse in Fort Pierce. The Sheriff's Office is responsible for hiring the company to provide security at the courthouse.

The sheriff first became concerned about Mateen when it was rumored that he voiced derogatory comments to his co-workers at G4S, the sheriff said.

"We could never substantiate those claims," Mascara said. "However, shortly after that rumor, (Mateen) made an offensive comment to one of my employees at the courthouse."

Mateen made many inflammatory comments at the courthouse in 2013, including a statement that Fort Hood, Texas, shooter Nidal Hasan was justified in fatally shooting 13 people and injuring more than 30 others in 2009, Mascara said Wednesday.

That mass shooting took place Nov. 5, 2009. Hasan was an Army major and psychiatrist. Soon after the attack, it was reported that his colleagues were aware that Hasan had been increasingly radicalized for several years.

In addition to commenting about Fort Hood, Mateen made derogatory remarks about women and Jews, the sheriff said.

"That sent red flags to my staff and me and the FBI was immediately notified," he said.

The FBI investigated Mateen, but could not conclude he had leanings toward terrorism.

The sheriff's courthouse supervisor requested that G4S transfer Mateen out of the courthouse security guard rotation permanently.

"That was immediately granted," Mascara said.

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