WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - The shooter who killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub early in June may have visited a shopping mall in West Palm Beach, days before the attack.
Employees of City Place in West Palm Beach said FBI agents questioned them recently, and sources tell 7News that Omar Mateen visited the mall at least five times in the months leading up to his attack, on June 12.
Residents in the area were concerned, Friday, as they learned that the shooter may have considered the mall as a target.
“Yes, it’s a concern, because there are people around here,” said Felix Lopez. “A lot of businesses where people gather.”
Sources said the FBI believes Mateen may have been at the mall on Feb. 25, March 26, May 18, June 2 and June 6. It was the next Sunday that Mateen committed the worst mass shooting in U.S. history at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
“That is crazy,” said Derrek Bishop. “That is startling that someone that dangerous was walking around.”
“One of the best targets,” said Camille Lockheart, “one of the best targets because everyone is always crowded here.”
In a statement, the FBI said, “The FBI has conducted hundreds of interviews in the South Florida area in connection with the Orlando shooting. At this time, we are not prepared to disclose specifics.”
Former FBI agent Stuart Kaplan said finding whether Mateen was at the mall could be crucial to investigators.
“Whether or not he was there by himself, or whether or not they can possibly identify other individuals he may have been with at the time he visited City Place, may potentially identify another subject or target,” said Kaplan.
Employees said they were interviewed as recently as Thursday. The FBI is also reviewing hours of surveillance footage.
People in the area said they wouldn’t let this news affect how they go about their lives.
“It is not going to make me stay home,” said Geegee Thomas. “I’m still going to live my life.”
“You can’t really live in fear,” said Thorn Green. “You have to continue living your life.”
Mateen lived about an hour and a half drive north of the mall. Sources said he may have been scared away by the security presence at the mall.
The FBI is urging anyone with information on Mateen to contact them.
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