Is there a connection between domestic abuse and mass shootings? That question has been raised anew in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting on Sunday that left 49 victims dead and another 53 injured. Omar Mateen, the gunman who carried out the attack and died in a shootout with police, has been accused of exhibiting behavior that was everything from downright creepy toward women to controlling and violent.
On Friday, a Florida bartender spoke out and said she was stalked by the Orlando nightclub shooter nearly 10 years ago, and that he sent her uncomfortable messages via Facebook until she blocked him on her social media. “He was one of those guys who wouldn’t leave me alone,” said Heather LaSalla of Fort Pierce, Florida, on Friday. LaSalla, who last saw Omar Mateen in November, said she recognized him on TV in the wake of the shooting. “It’s just weird that he snapped like that,” she said.
In the day or two following the massacre, Mateen’s first wife, Sitora Yusufiy, recounted having seen him snap on numerous occasions. During their brief marriage years ago, she said that “he would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.” She said that the beatings began almost immediately after the marriage, and that he also prevented her from seeing or speaking from her family. When her family ultimately came to rescue her, she said he was so determined to make her stay that her family had to physically pull her from his arms.
Were the clues about Mateen’s future outburst of gun violence hiding in plain sight? Perhaps they were. A recent analysis of mass shootings, conducted by research and advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, has found the connection between domestic abuse and mass-shootings to be all too salient. Of the 133 cases of mass-shootings between January, 2009, and July, 2015, the study found that “in at least 76 of the cases (57 percent) the shooter killed a current spouse or intimate partner or other family member, and in at least 21 incidents (15 percent) the shooter had a prior domestic violence charge.”