JENSEN BEACH — Orlando mass shooter Omar Mateen tried to buy military-grade body armor and bulk ammunition several weeks ago at a local firearms store, and the encounter seemed suspicious, a store co-owner said Thursday.
Robbie Abell, co-owner of Lotus Gunworks, on Northwest Federal Highway just north of the Treasure Coast Square mall in Jensen Beach, said about six weeks ago Mateen came in and tried to buy what he called Level 3 body armor from an employee. He said that offers the greatest level of protection available, and is military grade.
He said few places carry that type of body armor and for a civilian to ask for it is odd. Mateen then backed away and started speaking a foreign language, he said. He said the employee thought “this is really getting odd now.”
“Those two things right there just shot the flares off. … We’re done right now before it goes any further,” Abell said. “(The employee) had already made up his mind there’s going to be no transaction.”
Mateen then asked for bulk ammunition, and the employee said they were out.
Abell said they reported the incident to federal authorities.
“We had no name who he was; we had no clue who this person was,” Abell said. “This person is anonymous, so how do you follow up an anonymous lead?”
Abell said only after seeing media coverage of Sunday’s mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando did they realize the shooter had been in their store earlier.
They then reported it again to law enforcement officials.
In Port St. Lucie, Ed Henson, owner of St. Lucie Shooting Center in St. Lucie West, said about 10 days before the shooting Mateen purchased two firearms there.
Mateen, a security officer, passed the necessary background checks for purchasing guns.
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