It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

Voltaire [1]

[That Voltaire sure had a way with words, didn’t he? This is Fred; G. Sallust is out this week, and possibly for a while longer. He’s sick; no, strike that, contrary to popular opinion, he’s not abnormal or behaving in a cruel way[2]; he’s simply ill with whatever’s going around, and allergic to the meds the doctor prescribed. He’s irritated by the situation, but unlikely to be violent.]

Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said of Omar Mateen, the Afghan-American who on June 12 entered a gay nightclub in Orlando, shot and killed 49 people, and wounded another 53. He’s dead now; the police shot him; but there’s a video of some of what went on[3], and no reports of trumpets sounding. So by Voltaire’s definition I guess Mateen was a simple murderer, not a soldier, although he killed on a large scale.

So why did he – Mateen – do it? Well, there are lots of theories. Apparently he had a rough childhood.[4]

According to the Daily Beast he was born in New York, the only boy in a house of four children; struggled in school early on; had bad grades; was violent, and twice hit other children; and, as he grew older, became even more violent. The family changed school districts when he was in 8th grade, and between 8th and 10th grade he was suspended for 48 days “for fighting and other behavioral issues.”[5] His last recorded suspension was for an “other disciplinary violation” on September 13, 2001, just two days following the terrorist attacks of that year. It’s amazing what today’s reporters can find when they want to look. Ordinarily one might expect disciplinary files of this sort to be kept confidential by the institutions that generated them.

Oh, well. Anyway, reportedly Mateen’s family is a bit strange as well. His parents were from Afghanistan – not strange in itself – ; but on one occasion his mother was arrested for beating his father[6]; and today the father does videos that are  primarily aimed at the Afghan diaspora. The Daily Beast reports that the elder Mateen is an unabashed Afghan nationalist with a visceral hatred of Pakistan. He talks a lot about the so-called Durand Line, a 19th Century border between the two countries.[7] While the elder Mateen “styles himself as a kind of peacemaker,” offering a detailed peace plan for the two rivals, some of his more recent comments are characterized as verging on the delusional.[8]

So did Omar Mateen kill because he was a bully, or had weird parents, or was there more to the story? When I look at something awful, like a mass murder, I always try to identify the things I really know, and distinguish them from the stuff others may have said, but aren’t really proved. In the case of Omar Mateen I’m pretty sure that he did it – i.e., killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a gay nightclub in a single night – because he was caught at the scene, heavily armed, and died in a shootout with the police. There may have been accomplices[9], I don’t know; but he definitely was a perpetrator. All of the other information, about his background, the eccentricities of his family and so forth, doesn’t add to or subtract from that basic fact.

So why did he shoot those people? Well, he told us why. He called 911 and possibly other numbers that night to explain himself. The first call, at 2:35 a.m., lasted approximately 50 seconds and went as follows:

OD: Emergency 911, this is being recorded.

OM: In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficent [Arabic]

OD: What?

OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [Arabic]. I wanna let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.

OD: What’s your name?

OM: My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.

OD: Ok, What’s your name?

OM: I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may God protect him [Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.

OD: Alright, where are you at?

OM: In Orlando.

OD: Where in Orlando?

[End of call.] [10]

There wasn’t a lot there, except he proclaimed his allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS. Actually, I guess that was a lot, wasn’t it? Anyway, more calls ensued, this time with the Orlando Police Department’s hostage negotiation team.[11] In them, according to the FBI,  Mateen “identified himself as an Islamic soldier, told the crisis negotiator that he was the person who pledged his allegiance to [ISIS], and told the negotiator to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq and that is why he was ‘out here right now.’”[12]He also made some threats concerning a dynamite vest and car bombs which proved to be untrue. Then he hung up and “multiple attempts to get in touch with him were unsuccessful.”[13]

So I guess Mr. Mateen really did think of himself as a soldier – of ISIS, in his case – in a war against the U.S. Voltaire’s trumpets may not have actually sounded when he attacked, but something very much like them was in his head. And he thought God [Allah] was on his side.

And why did he pick on gay people? Could it be, because they were easy targets? After all, they congregated in large numbers in the same place at the same time every weekend; the venue obviously had lousy security; and the customers didn’t carry guns. As I understand it, it’s illegal in Florida to carry a weapon in a place that serves alcohol.[14] Too bad nobody explained that to Mr. Mateen. Or could it be, because in the Middle East gay sex warrants the death penalty?[15] If that’s the rule over there, then why not apply it here? It’s an Islamic thing, so perhaps the rule ought to be the same everywhere.

I think that’s a bad idea, and there’s evidence the LGBT community agrees. Have you ever heard of the rainbow flag? I hadn’t, until I did some quick research[16] on it last week. According to Wikipedia, it’s also known as the gay pride or LGBT pride flag. “The colors reflect the diversity of the LGBT community, and the flag is often used as a symbol of gay pride when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights marches.”[17] While it originated in Northern California, it’s now used worldwide.

The point is that some new versions of the flag appeared after the shootings in Orlando. They sport the legend “shoot back!” and very much oppose the notion that ISIS or anyone else is free to execute gays.[18] If you want to see a short lecture of self-defense and the gay community, there’s an interesting video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5gyHwiJtaw .[19] When you watch it just remember that social movements tend to start on the West Coast, and move east. Politicians who forget that may well get a good, stiff dose of reality in November.

 

 

 

[1] This one’s from goodreads.com, Quotes about Murder, available at http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/murder

[2] See Compact Oxford English Dictionary (3rd Edition, 2005) at sick, sense 4, “behaving in an abnormal or cruel way.”

[3] See Orlando Sentinel, Wilber, Weiner & Stutzman, Pulse nightclub security video recovered by agents (June `17, 2016),  available at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/breaking-news/os-shooting-developments-friday-20160617-story.html

[4] See The Daily Beast, Harris, et al., The Unhinged Home that Raised Orlando Killer Omar Mateen (06/18/2016) available at http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/06/18/the-unhinged-home-that-raised-orlando-killer-omar-mateen.html

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id. “Lately, the videos have taken on a delusional tone. [The elder] Mateen has appointed himself president of Afghanistan and has posted to his Facebook pages the names and photos of people he claims are serving as ministers in his cabinet. Recent videos on his Facebook timeline show [him] wearing camouflage fatigues and saluting the camera.”

[9] Why do I say that? Mostly because he did at least some of the killing with a rifle, and rifles, especially those of the so-called “assault” variety, are fairly bulky. How in the world could he get one of those into a crowded nightclub without being noticed? Did he disassemble it, and assemble the pieces later? That would be easier to do with an accomplice. So don’t assume Omar Mateen was the only one involved.

[10] See FBI Tampa, Press Release, Investigative Update Regarding Pulse Nightclub Shooting (June 20, 2016), available at https://www.fbi.gov/tampa/press-releases/2016/investigative-update-regarding-pulse-nightclub-shooting

[11] The calls were at 2:48 a.m., 3:03 a.m., and 3:24 a.m.

[12] Id.

[13] Id. A previous update was provided by James Comey, the FBI  Director, on June 13, 2016. You can find it at https://www.fbi.gov/news/speeches/update-on-orlando-terrorism-investigation

[14] See, e.g., Wikipedia, Gun Laws in Florida, available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_Florida . Please note, Larry would never let me use Wikipedia to establish a legal point, but he’s not here. But if you have a real legal question or problem, do your own research or call a lawyer; don’t rely on me.

[15] See, e.g., The Atlantic, Nadya Labi, The Kingdom in the Closet (May, 2007), available at http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2007/05/the-kingdom-in-the-closet/305774/

[16] That is, I consulted Wikipedia. You can find what I found by going to Wikipedia and searching for “rainbow flag”  or simply by clicking here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_flag_(LGBT_movement)

[17] Id.

[18] See Daily Wire, Berrien, West Hollywood Inundated With AMAZING Pro-Gun, ProGay Posters (June 15, 2016), available at http://www.dailywire.com/news/6612/west-hollywood-inundated-poster-rainbow-gadsen-hank-berrien

[19] The full citation is: The Yankee Marshal, Terrorism in the LGBTQ Community, available at   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5gyHwiJtaw

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