Lotus Gunworks in Jensen Beach told FBI about 'suspicious activity' before Orlando shooting

Posted at 11:33 PM, Jun 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-17 04:54:30-04

JENSEN BEACH, Fla. -- The co-owner of Lotus Gunworks in Jensen Beach says Omar Mateen tried to buy armor and bulk ammunition at that store nearly five to six weeks before the Orlando shooting.

Robert Abell said employees at his store considered Mateen’s behavior suspicious. The store doesn’t sell the high-grade body armor he was requesting. They also didn’t feel comfortable selling him bulk ammunition, which would be at least 1,000 rounds. 

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They say he was talking on the phone in another language and texting frequently and quickly.

“It is our right to deny the sale. We have done it time after time,” Abell said.

Mateen left the store without making any purchases. Beause of that, employees did not know his name when they reported the suspicious activity to the FBI.

“Had I made one transaction with him, just one, we could have fingered him and it would have been taken care of,” Abell said.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder says gun store owners had been told around the same time to be alert for two other suspicious middle eastern males.

Snyder says it is possible that when the complaint came in from Lotus Gunworks about the suspicious activity from Mateen, the FBI may have considered him one of the two men already on their radar.

Those two men ended up being cleared, according to Snyder. 

“Nobody connected the dots. He slipped under the cracks and this is where we’re at now… Our intuition was correct. It’s just very sad that we had him that close. He was that close that law enforcement could have got their hands on him,” Abell said.

Abell only knew Mateen’s name after seeing the headlines from Orlando.

“Unfortunately only then it was recognized that’s who was in the store.”

Abell says even if they had run a background check on Mateen, he likely could have still been sold a gun. “There was nothing on him. There was no reason I would have not sold him a gun,” Abell said.

He stresses gun store owners only want to sell to the good guys, but they have to rely on thorough information from the FBI.

Mateen was shopping alone, according to Abell.

Abell also says gun sales have spiked at his store since the attack in Orlando.