Orlando shooter’s ex-wife: ‘In the beginning, he was a normal being’
Sitora Yusufiy — the ex-wife of Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people and injured dozens of others this weekend — said in interviews with media her ex-husband was abusive, controlling and "mentally unstable."
"I was devastated, shocked — started shaking, crying," Yusufiy said in an interview now posted to YouTube. She formerly lived in Edison, but now lives in Boulder, Colo. "More than anything, I was so so deeply hurt and heartbroken for the people that lost their loved ones. The families that are now suffering. The people that are wounded that are healing. It’s everything that I stand for — to not have that."
Yusufiy said her only wish is "for humanity to be in harmony, for people to not have to go through that. And to be in some way affiliated at one point in my life with someone that caused such a tragedy, it shook me."
Overnight, the last of 49 bodies were removed from Pulse — the gay club where 29-year-old Mateen opened fire with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a handgun early Sunday before dying in a gun battle with a SWAT team. Just before the shooting, Mateen had called 911 to profess allegiance to the Islamic State, which has claimed credit for the shooting, though authorities have been cautious to say they haven't confirmed any operational connection to the group.
Mateen,a religious Muslim, had been a body builder and security guard who's sought to become a police officer.
“In the beginning, he was a normal being," said Yusufiy, his estranged wife. "(He) cared about family, loved to joke, loved to have fun."
But she said that within a few months of their 2009 marriage in Florida, another side began to emerge. She saw signs of anger, and described him as "bipolar."
"He would get mad out of nowhere. ... That's when I started worrying about my safety," she said.
Yusufiy said her ex-husband had become physically abusive. He wouldn't let her have contact with her family, she said. When family members finally came to their home to rescue her, she said, "they had to pull me out of his arms.”
Even through the abuse, Yusufiy said, "I tried to see good in him."
Yusufiy said there's only one way she can make sense of the carnage:
"He was mentally unstable and mentally ill. That’s the only explanation I can give," she said.
Yusufiy confirmed her ex-husband — from whom she said she'd been entirely cut off, her family having warned him they'd go to the authorities if he made further contact — was religious. Yusify said she personally draws on several faiths.
She said her concern is "For the people that are wounded. For their families that are probably left with questions and heartbroken, wondering why this happened, why someone would do this. That’s my biggest concern. I pray for their healing. I pray for their peace, to find their peace."
— The Associated Press contributed to this report
From Sunday's North Jersey Pride Festival: