The security company that employed Orlando, Florida, nightclub shooter Omar Mateen failed to heed warnings about at least two other employees who later went on to kill.
In 2015, a coroner’s investigation in the United Kingdom found G4S ignored red flags before Danny Fitzsimons shot and killed two co-workers in Baghdad in 2009. The company had received anonymous emails from a fellow guard with warnings about Fitzsimons.
“I am speaking out because I feel that people should not be put at risk,” one of the emails said.
“I have told you that he remains a threat and you have done nothing,” another reads.
Fitzsimons, who already was facing assault and a firearms-related charges at the time of his hiring, had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He had been dismissed from a prior Iraq contractor after he punched a client, according to news reports.
He wrote in his private papers: “I will continue to satisfy my blood lust and my need to take life.”
During the investigation, a former senior director at G4S described a subsequent company audit that found “widespread failure in screening and vetting processes.” Of the 500 employees screened, he said a total of 304 had failed to meet the required standards, according to news reports about the hearing.
In Canada in 2013, former G4S armored car guard Travis Baumgartner was convicted of murder after shooting four of his co-workers in a robbery at the University of Alberta in 2012.
Over the three months before the shootings, Baumgartner had posted several statements on Facebook that authorities later cited in court documents. Among them: “I wonder if I’d make the six o’clock news if I just started poping (sic) people off.” Later, he changed his profile photograph to a picture of himself wearing a vest, balaclava mask and sunglasses.
In Mateen’s case, none of the guard’s previous background checks had prevented him from purchasing guns or obtaining licenses to work as an armed guard.
He’d been questioned twice by the FBI for possible links to terrorism. His ex-wife said he was abusive, and a co-worker reported him for making racist and homophobic statements.
But Mateen did not fit any of the categories of people who, under federal law, are prohibited from possessing guns. He did not have a felony criminal record or misdemeanor domestic violence conviction, and he never had been committed to a mental health institution.
Although he at one point was on what is known as the terrorist watch list, Mateen was not on the list at the time of his gun purchases. Even so, it is not against the law for a suspected terrorist to purchase a gun. The Government Accountability Office has urged lawmakers to give the Department of Justice the power to deny gun purchases based on terror concerns, but Republicans have resisted the idea.
Mateen also had met all of the requirements for a security guard and gun license in Florida. The state, like most others, does not require guards to receive psychological evaluations before getting permission to carry guns on the job. G4S does require certain hires to complete a psychological test, according to the company, which Mateen passed when he was hired in 2007.
According to Bloomberg News, G4S gave Mateen a Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a popular personality test that frequently is given to security guard and law enforcement applicants.
One G4S guard described the test as a written, multiple-choice questionnaire of a little more than 100 questions. John Dearborn, a security guard in Portland, Oregon, told Reveal that it took him about 45 minutes to complete in a room with others also going through the employment process.
“They’re trying to weed out those people who have a God complex or on a power trip or have a screw loose,” he said. “They’re asking you questions in different ways to find out if you have a tendency to be a person who gets angry or a person who has a hidden agenda.”
The FBI’s first investigation into Mateen began after co-workers reported that Mateen suggested he might have terrorist ties.
Daniel Gilroy, who worked with Mateen at a gated community, described him as “unhinged and unstable.” He said he repeatedly warned the company before quitting his job after Mateen began sending him as many as 20 or 30 text messages a day and leaving more than a dozen phone messages, according to the Los Angeles Times. He said Mateen threatened to kill people “all the time.”
“I complained multiple times that he was dangerous, that he didn’t like blacks, women, lesbians and Jews,” Gilroy told the paper. “I saw this coming.”
In a statement released today, the company noted the FBI’s decision to close its investigations into Mateen without action and said it had no record of complaints from Gilroy.
“G4S notes the statement today by FBI Director James Comey that agents investigated Omar Mateen in 2013 and 2014 and closed their investigations after deciding that no further action was necessary.
“G4S also notes the comments by a former employee, Daniel Gilroy. G4S has no record of any complaint by Mr. Gilroy about Mr. Mateen. And further, Mr. Gilroy is on record on June 2015, shortly after leaving G4S, as saying, ‘The work and job assignments were respectful and co-workers were good men and women that put in an honest day’s work and genuinely like to work as a team and contribute,’ ” the statement reads.
Only four states – Delaware, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and New Mexico – require armed-guard applicants to undergo a mental health evaluation, which is standard for law enforcement officers before being placed on the job.
In Oklahoma, licensing authorities have taken immediate action on a guard’s license after receiving a report from a company about substance abuse or dangerous, unstable behavior on the job. Unstable guards can get their licenses back only after receiving clearance from a mental health professional.
It’s unclear whether G4S ever notified the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services about the complaints lodged against Mateen. Records obtained by Reveal show G4S has reported firearm discharges to the state, a requirement under the law.
Between 2008 and 2012, guards with G4S in Florida fired their guns 17 times on the job, according to state records. In one case, a guard working at the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant was suspended by G4S and immediately sent to drug and alcohol testing after he forgot to turn on his gun’s safety lock and accidentally fired the gun while attempting to load it. That guard’s license was not revoked and remains active.
Shoshana Walter can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @shoeshine.