Those seeking to explain the Orlando shooter’s behavior as religious extremism may be barking up the wrong tree. His obsession with law enforcement and failure to become a police officer, as well as his struggle with his sexual identity, point to an indoctrination not in Salafist dogma but in a culture of authoritarian social control exemplified by the international security industry that employed him.
Although ISIS has now claimed responsibility for the shooting that killed 50 people, mostly gay Latino men, in an Orlando nightclub on Sunday, it is unclear whether gunman Omar Mateen even knew exactly what ISIS is; he has also claimed affiliation with al Qaeda and Hezbollah. The three groups are among those at war with one another for control of Syria.
What’s clearer about Mateen’s aspirations is his desire to become a police officer and his persistence over a series of failed attempts to join law enforcement. In 2007, he was employed as a trainee officer by the Florida Department of Corrections at state prison Martin County Correctional Institution, but Mateen did not complete the probationary period and was let go after six months. In 2011, Mateen failed the “basic abilities exam” to qualify for being a law enforcement officer.
Last year, Mateen applied for a six-month police academy course at Indian River State College Criminal Justice Institute, which in 2006 awarded him an associate’s degree from a two-year administration of justice program, but his application to the academy was rejected and the college reported him to Florida state police. He had previously been dismissed from a related training course, reportedly for threatening to bring a gun to campus.
In 2007, Mateen obtained a Florida security guard license and in 2009, he was hired by multinational private security firm G4S, a company with employees who have been implicated in acts of violence and abuse worldwide. With 623,000 employees, London-based G4S is the world’s largest security firm and the third-largest private employer worldwide, after Walmart and Foxconn.
In 2015, Mateen worked as a security guard at PGA Village with Daniel Gilroy, who told Florida Today that he was forced to quit because Mateen harassed him, sending him dozens of texts and voicemails per day. Gilroy claims that he complained to G4S about Mateen’s violent, homophobic, and racist language multiple times, but the company declined to fire Mateen.
According to Gilroy, G4S said it was “because he was Muslim,” implying that the firm was more concerned about a lawsuit on first-Amendment grounds than about the hostile environment Mateen created for his fellow employees. G4S told NBC that they have no record of any complaints about Mateen, at the golf course or elsewhere.
Mateen worked for G4S as a security guard at the St. Lucie County Courthouse in 2013 and was transferred following complaints about Mateen’s “inflammatory” language, according to the St. Lucie County Sheriff. This prompted one of the two FBI investigations into Mateen, who lauded the Fort Hood shooter while on duty, detailed martyrdom fantasies, and boasted about purported connections to Al Qaeda. G4S transferred him to a non-armed security job, but according to the NBC interview, did not communicate with the FBI about the content of its investigation.
Florida is home to another man who had a strong interest in law enforcement: George Zimmerman, the man acquitted of shooting unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was dismissed from a job as an unlicensed security guard for house parties for being erratic and violent. His application to become a police officer in Virginia was rejected, and Zimmerman later studied criminal justice at a Florida community college. More recently, Zimmerman posed as a security guard in the parking lot of a gun store, which denied hiring him. Post acquittal, Zimmerman has been involved in several violent incidents, none resulting in charges, as well as selling inflammatory artworks for large sums of money.
I suspect the more we learn about Omar Mateen, the more similarities we’ll see btwn him and George Zimmerman #WeirdoCopWannabesWhoBeatWomen— Dana Houle (@DanaHoule) June 13, 2016
Mateen’s erratic behavior is not all that unusual for an employee of G4S, which has a long history of employing men who commit acts of violence on the job.
In March of this year, a G4S security guard at a San Francisco Safeway reportedly kicked a chihuahua so hard that it ran away and was struck by a car. A 2014 investigative report by WFTS Tampa Bay discovered that G4S, which operates several youth detention centers in Florida on multi-million dollar contracts, conducted shoddy background checks that led to multiple instances of hiring prison guards who went on to commit sexual abuse of minors in their care.
Other United States incidents: An off-duty Tennessee G4S security guard was charged with sexual battery in March of this year; a G4S Fort Lauderdale hotel security guard was charged with human trafficking after being found holding teenage girls in captivity in 2014; a Georgia G4S guard impersonated a police officer during a road rage incident in 2012. In Coral Gables, Florida, in 2010, a G4S security guard was arrested for burglary and video voyeurism for breaking into a home and taking cameraphone pictures of a teenage girl. Prior to being hired by G4S, the guard had been convicted under California’s peeping tom laws and dishonorably discharged from the Marines.
G4S’ reputation is even worse abroad, including in its UK home base. A series of scandals involving mistreatment described as torture lost G4S its deportations transport contract after Jimmy Mubenga died on a British Airways plane while being transported back to Angola by GS4 security personnel.The three guards were acquitted of manslaughter, despite a graphic record of racist text messages about immigrants of color.
In December, a British police chief was hired by G4S after being found guilty of official misconduct and resigning. A BBC-4 investigation into a women’s immigration detention center revealed miscarriages and multiple instances of self-harm dismissed as “attention seeking.” In another incident with British G4S employees, Danny Fitzsimons killed two fellow G4S security guards in Baghdad in 2012. According to the BBC, coworkers wrote to G4S warning he was unstable and prone to violence and at the time of his hiring, “Fitzsimons also had a criminal record, was facing outstanding charges of assault and a firearms offense, and had been diagnosed by doctors as having PTSD.”
The Orlando shooter desperately wanted to be a cop and was also employed by the CIA contractor G4S security group. pic.twitter.com/VUgRnr3L5S— #FreeJalilMuntaqim (@BlakeDontCrack) June 13, 2016
Mateen’s employment by G4S coincides oddly with his stated sympathy with Hezbollah, an anti-West and anti-Zionist militant group. G4S has been one the largest targets of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), a campaign ranging from boycott of goods manufactured in occupied Palestinian territories to withdrawal of major investment funds from companies doing business with Israel. Among other controversial dealings in Israel, G4S has operated notorious children’s prisons that rely on solitary confinement; the company claims it no longer employs prison personnel in Israel and that it will be selling off its Israeli division. Large BDS-prompted divestments from G4S have included the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the University of Oslo, and the United Methodist Church, but G4S claims BDS’ campaign is not the reason for its departure.
According to G4S’ website, it operates across 110 countries in sectors ranging from government to mining to retail. Nine percent of its portfolio is “Care and Justice Services,” including prison management, and it also supports both military and paramilitary organizations in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.
Outside Britain and the US, G4S has allegedly been involved in torture deaths at Mangaung Prison in South Africa and has been accused of profiting off human rights violations at the Guantanamo Bay detention center. G4S’ infamous short-staffing of the Olympic Games in London affected deployment of British troops stationed in Afghanistan; however, the firm’s UK contract has been renewed.
Unfortunately, Omar Mateen’s name now joins the long list of men under G4S employ who have committed violent acts. The culture that created G4S—the same culture that created private prisons, detention centers for children and for asylum-seekers, and that places armed security guards at shopping malls—created Omar Mateen.
Rather than focusing on the Orlando shooter’s religion, let’s focus on his employer, G4S for a minute: pic.twitter.com/uvs0usWZr0— Antonin Stankonia (@jaybeware) June 13, 2016
Special thanks to Twitter user @jaybeware for the twitter thread and DM conversation that prompted this review of G4S as a corporation that has profited off violence.