As investigators search for a motive to the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, new evidence appears to fortify accounts that the gunman, Omar Mateen, may have been a frustrated gay man who was hiding his sexuality from family and friends.
A man who claims he was Mateen's gay lover told Univision in a lengthy interview last week that the June 12 shooting was an act of personal revenge, not terrorism.
Identifying himself only as "Miguel," and wearing a heavy disguise, he said Mateen was "100 percent" gay and bore a grudge against Latino men because he felt used by them.
Mateen opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle during a Latin-themed night at Pulse in the early hours of June 12, killing 49 people and wounding dozens more. He was killed in a shootout with police hours later.
Although Univision was unable to independently verify Miguel's account of a gay relationship with Mateen, several details regarding his time in Orlando do check out, including hotel records and witnesses who say they saw him in the company of a man who closely resembled Mateen.
Two employees at the Ambassador hotel in Orlando where Miguel said he met Mateen for a series of sexual rendezvous, confirmed he was a guest for 63 days between October and December 2015.
"He was registered at the hotel," said receptionist Melanie Mercado, who recalled seeing Miguel in the company of someone who looked like Mateen. "He was visited by the gunman," said another employee who asked not to be identified. The hotel said surveillance camera footage from Miguel's stay had expired.
After Univision's interview with Miguel several media published reports questioning his story including The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. “Federal authorities looked into his account and do not consider it credible,” The New York Times reported on Saturday, citing a law enforcement official.
Federal agents had searched Mateen’s electronic devices, including a laptop computer and cellphone, without finding evidence to suggest he was gay, the reports stated. An examination of electronic communications of Miguel and other gay man who claim to know Mateen, also turned up empty, the newspapers reported.
An FBI spokesperson would not comment on those reports to Univision. In a statement the FBI would only say that investigators have conducted more than 600 interviews in the case, "and will continue to seek information from anyone who claims to have it. However, we are not at liberty to confirm or deny specific interviews, nor the credibility of content discussed due to the ongoing investigation."
The FBI confirmed to Univision last week that agents had interviewed Miguel as part of the investigation.
However, in a follow up interview this week Miguel told Univision that the FBI did not request details of his gay dating app identities until the weekend, after the media reports appeared questioning his credibility. "They called me asking my nicknames and email accounts," he said.
Univision asked Grindr if it had turned over any records to the FBI from an account that Miguel claims he used to communicate with Mateen. “Grindr does not comment on investigations,” the company said in an emailed statement.
Miguel provided Univision with an email he sent to Grindr on Monday asking for a transcript of his messages with Mateen. "I don't understand how is possible the FBI say 'Can't Find,' So I need answers," he wrote.
A Grindr customer support manager responded: "Please have the FBI contact us ... and we will co-operate with them fully to provide any information they request."
Mateen's first wife told Univision that she is convinced her ex-husband was gay, but said the FBI had asked her not to mention it to the media.
“I believe he (was) a homosexual," said Sitora Yusufiy in an interview at her home in Colorado on Monday. "I think that there was a part of him that wanted to explore homosexuality but didn’t know how and was very confused,” she added, citing what she said were feminine mannerisms.
Yusufiy was briefly married to Mateen in 2009 before fleeing what she says was an abusive relationship.
Univision also spoke with a woman, who also asked to remain anonymous, at a health center where Miguel has been a client for the last three and half years. Asked if she considered Miguel to be a trustworthy person not prone to inventing fantasies, she said "based on my interaction with him I would say, sure."
Born in Cuba, Miguel came to the United States aged 18 during the 1994 rafter crisis when thousands of Cubans fled the island in flimsy home-made boats. He was picked up at sea and spent several months in the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba.
Miguel claims he had a two-month relationship with Mateen after meeting him on Grindr in 2015. Asked why he decided to come forward with his story, he said: “It’s my responsibility as a citizen of the United States and a gay man.”
Mateen was particularly angry at Puerto Ricans, Miguel said, because he once had unprotected sex with a man from the island who later confessed to being H.I.V. positive.
“I believe this crazy horrible thing he did was revenge,” Miguel said.
Mateen's possible gay lifestyle would stand in stark contrast to his strict Muslim upbringing. It also does not jibe with a 911 call placed by Mateen during his rampage at Pulse in which he pledged solidarity with the Islamic State group. Officials also say the investigations turned up evidence he had explored websites of armed Islamic extremists.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told reporters last week that investigators may never be able to pinpoint a single motive.