FORT PIERCE, Fla. -- Federal investigators have identified the man behind a mass shooting and terror attack at an Orlando nightclub as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, of Port St. Lucie.
An Imam at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, Dr. Syed Rahman, confirms that Mateen did worship at his Mosque, located on Midway Rd. in Fort Pierce.
Anger was apparent in the community, with drivers yelling “burn it down” out their window while driving by the mosque. Deputies with the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office say someone walked into the mosque yelling profanity. Nearby residents are also trying to start a petition to have the mosque closed.
Imam Rahman defends his religion and condemns the actions of Mateen.
Rahman has known Mateen and his family since Mateen was a child. He says he was an energetic child, who grew up to be a quiet adult.
Mateen would pray at the mosque about four times a week, according to Rahman.
“He would come with his 5-year- old boy. He would pray in the night prayer.”
Rahman says he had no inclination that Mateen would become violent. He says Mateen had close ties to law enforcement in the area.
Now, Rahman grieves with the community, Mateen’s family and the many victims in the Pulse night club.
“It is our moral obligation to condole with the family. Because, it is our firm belief that the father had not contributed to this, his mother, nothing. His sister, nothing.”
Rahman heard about the shooting through the news, and watched the death count rise. Rahman says he prayed the shooter would not be Muslim. “He was not only Muslim, but a Muslim from here in this area so it was a shock,” Rahman said.
This is the second time in nearly two years that Rahman has learned someone who worshiped at the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce had committed an act of terrorism.
Moner-Muhammed Abu Salha was a suicide bomber in Syria in 2014. He lived in Vero Beach and Fort Pierce.
He was considered one of the first Americans to carry out a suicide bombing in that area overseas.
Rahman would not say Abu Salha was a member of the mosque. He would also not say Mateen was a member. He only said they both worshiped at the mosque.
“This is a coincidence. There is no teaching given about extremism in this mosque. There is nothing coming in the sermon or the speeches,” Rahman said.
Rahman condemns Mateen’s actions, saying it only makes it harder for Muslims in America to worship in peace.
“What is going on is terrifying and we are scared,” Rahman said.
Rahman, a local doctor, says he worries about how this mass shooting will impact how he is treated by people in the community.
“I’m thinking tomorrow when I’m going in, I will be seeing my patient, and I’m thinking what will the people think about me? It’s a crime which happened and I have no contribution. I never though about it. I never supported it. Nothing.”
Rahman says he had no idea Mateen was on the FBI watch list.
He says the FBI has been to the mosque in the past when there have been act of violence tied to Islam across the country. They comply with any investigations.