Families of some of the 49 people killed in a massacre at an Orlando gay nightclub mourned and buried their dead, a day after US president Barack Obama met survivors and said the United States must act to control gun violence.
Burials began as it emerged the owner of a gun shop in Florida said the gunman, Omar Mateen, came to his shop to buy body armour and 1,000 rounds of ammunition about five weeks before the rampage.
Robert Abell, co-owner of Lotus Gunworks in Jensen Beach, says the shop declined the sale because the customer raised suspicions by requesting a high grade of body armour typically used by law enforcement.
Abell says the young man left empty-handed and that the shop alerted the FBI, but since no sale was made, the shop did not check the man’s ID and had no name to give authorities.
Abell says store staff realised the customer was nightclub shooter Omar Mateen only after seeing reports about the carnage in Orlando.
Funerals are expected to be held over the next two weeks.
Obama, who travelled to Orlando on Thursday and met survivors and families of those who died, told reporters: “I held and hugged grieving family members and parents, and they asked, ‘Why does this keep happening?’.”
He urged Congress to pass measures to make it harder to legally acquire high-powered weapons like the semi-automatic rifle used in the attack on Sunday.
Obama and vice president Joe Biden were in Orlando after the US-born gunman claiming allegiance to various Islamist militant groups carried out the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
During the shooting rampage, Mateen exchanged text messages with his wife, CNN reported, as well as posting on Facebook and placing a phone call to a television station.
Police killed Mateen, 29, a US citizen born in New York to Afghan immigrants.
Mateen texted his wife to say “I love you, babe” during his rampage.
CBS News said it had spoken to a police source who told them the 29-year-old and his wife Noor Salman communicated during the attack at Pulse on Sunday.
NBC News, citing someone close to Salman, reported that she received a call from Mateen’s mother on the night of the shootings, asking if she knew where her husband was.
The source said Salman then texted her husband asking “Where are you?” at around 2.30am, midway through his rampage.
Mateen is said to have responded, “Do you see what’s happening?” and when Salman answered “no?”, Mateen sent a text saying “I love you, babe”.
NBC said she told investigators she tried to call her husband but failed to get through.
Salman is under investigation to find out whether she knew about Mateen’s plans ahead of time.
Salman apparently gave conflicting accounts about what she knew of Mateen’s intentions in the hours before the attack, authorities said. She also told investigators that in the weeks before the attack, Mateen spent thousands of dollars, including for the guns used in the attack.
Mateen and Salman married in 2011. They have a three-year-old son and lived in Fort Pierce, about two hours from the massacre.
Obama, who has visited mass shooting victims’ families in towns from San Bernardino, California, to Newtown, Connecticut, since becoming president, laid flowers at a memorial for the victims of the attack on the Pulse nightclub.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack but US officials have said they do not believe Mateen was assisted from abroad. A married couple also claiming allegiance to Islamic State shot dead 14 people in California in December.
Salman is coming under increasing scrutiny as police investigate the massacre at the nightclub. Authorities say Mateen carried out the killing with a Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic assault-style rifle and a pistol.
A US attorney plans to bring evidence before a federal grand jury to determine whether charges will be filed against the gunman’s wife, two law enforcement officials said.
Despite mounting pledges of allegiance to IS, some say they believe Mateen was actually fuelled by struggles with his sexuality — and may have latched on to IS as a vehicle for his anger.
Several regulars at the gay nightclub said the gunman visited frequently over the past few years. Cord Cedeno said Mateen saw him at Pulse and messaged him on Grindr, a gay dating app.
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