Thursday, June 16, 2016
Orlando gunman Omar Mateen tried to buy heavy-duty body armor and bulk ammunition from a Florida gun shop several weeks ago, but a suspicious employee refused to sell him anything — and even called the FBI, according to one of the store’s owners Thursday.
Mateen ended up shooting dead 49 people weeks later, after buying guns and ammo from another shop.
When Mateen went to the first shop, a former military man who works at the Lotus Gunworks in Jensen Beach, Fla., told him he didn’t have any of the military-style equipment he was looking for. That was just six weeks before the homegrown terrorist went on a bloody rampage in an Orlando club that left 49 dead.
Mateen came into the shop alone and asked for a “Level 3” bulletproof vest and then walked away for a second, speaking in Arabic on his cell phone, the store’s owner said.
When he came back, Mateen told the employee he also wanted bulk ammo, which usually comes in 1,000 rounds.
“The start of the eyebrow drawn up was the request of the body armor,” Lotus Gunworks co-owner Robert Abell said outside his shop Thursday. “When he pulled away and went immediately to his phone and then came back and wanted bulk ammo, at that time, [the employee] was already very concerned.
“He was going to make sure there wasn’t any transaction,” Abell added, saying his employee lied and told Mateen they didn’t have either in stock.
Their interaction only lasted 5 minutes, but it triggered enough concern in the employee decided to call the FBI as soon as Mateen walked out.
Abell said no one came to investigate the situation and that they didn’t have high-quality video footage of the interaction between Mateen and the worker because it happened in a corner of the store that has an older camera.
His employee was shocked when news broke about a shooting in Orlando and he recognized the mass murderer.
“He jumped off the floor. It was an instant,” Abell said. “[He said], ‘Call the FBI right now.’”
Mateen did manage to purchase two guns — a Glock handgun and a Sig Sauer assault rifle — from the St. Lucie Shooting Center a few days before the shooting. That shop doesn’t sell body armor.
The gun shop, which is a 30-minute drive from Lotus, is run by a retired NYPD officer.