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Nightclub shooter had discipline problems as student

Martin County school documents show Omar Mateen was suspended 48 days

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As early as third grade, the Florida nightclub shooter talked frequently about sex and violence and before finishing high school was suspended for a total of 48 days, including for fighting and hurting classmates, school records showed.

Documents released by the Martin County School District show the 29-year-old who shot more than 100 people at Orlando's Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning had a troubled time in high school

Omar Mateen, 29, spent a semester of his freshman year in 2001 Martin County High School before being sent to an alternative school, Spectrum Junior/Senior High School in Stuart. Records show he spent two semesters at Spectrum before returning to Martin County for the final semester of his sophomore year and the first semester of his junior year in 2002.

Mateen enrolled in an adult education program in early 2003.

Teachers "couldn't seem to help him," said Dan Alley, retired dean of Martin County High School. "We tried to counsel him and show him the error of his ways, but it never had the effect that we were hoping for."

The 29-year-old son of Afghan immigrants was killed Sunday in a shootout with police as they moved into the club.

For elementary and early middle school, Mateen attended class in neighboring St. Lucie County, where teachers said he was disruptive and struggled academically.

A third-grade teacher wrote that he was "very active ... constantly moving, verbally abusive, rude, aggressive." The teacher described "much talk about violence & sex," with Mateen's "hands all over the place - on other children, in his mouth."

The same teacher wrote that Mateen and another student sang the words "marijuana, marijuana" rather than the school's song, "mariposa, mariposa."

In a 1999 letter to Mateen's father, one of his middle school teachers wrote that the boy's "attitude and inability to show self-control in the classroom create distractions and become a main source of difficulty for him."

"Unfortunately, Omar has great difficulty focusing on his classwork since he often seeks the attention of his classmates through some sort of noise, disruption or distraction," the letter said.

Documents from his time at the Martin County and Spectrum schools show that Mateen was suspended 23 days. Five of those days were in-school suspension; the other 18 were out-of-school suspensions.

The district only lists two reasons for suspension: other rule violation or fighting with injury. Mateen got into two fights at Martin County, suspended for a total of eight days for those fights.

As a middle school student at Stuart Middle School, county documents show that Mateen was suspended 25 days for rule violations.

In seventh grade, school administrators moved Mateen to another class to "avoid conflicts with other students." That same report said Mateen was doing poorly in several subjects because of "many instances of behavioral problems."

DOCUMENT: Martin County school district record on Omar Mateen

One notable suspension came on September 13, 2001, two days after the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. Classmates have said that after the attacks, Mateen celebrated them both in class and on the bus. The school district would not confirm or deny the reason for the Sept. 13 suspension.

Robbie Zirkle rode the bus from school back to his home in Jensen Beach with Omar Mateen during the 2001-2002 school year.

Zirkle said Mateen made crashing airplane gestures after the attacks.

"He was the last one on the bus," Zirkle said. "He hopped on, got up the first couple steps, then he put his arms up as he walked down the aisle. He stopped at his seat and made an explosion sound and fell in his seat. After we started going, he stopped, but when the bus stopped, he would start acting like a plane and doing it again. He did that like two or three times."

News4Jax learned Friday that tried to buy body armor and a high volume of ammunition from Lotus Gunworks in Jensen Beach a few weeks ago. The store owner, Robert Abell, told south Florida media that no sales were made and he even reported it as suspicious, but without having a name, the FBI had little go with.

"Our intuition was correct. It’s just very sad that we had him that close. He was that close that law enforcement could have got their hands on him," Abell said.

Gunman worked briefly for Florida prison system

Records released by the the state show Mateen was hired by the Florida Department of Corrections in 2006 as a probationary officer. An evaluation seemed to show that he was well on his way to becoming a corrections officer, but six months after he was hired.

An official reason for his dismissal was never given, but the records indicate he was terminated for reasons not related to misconduct.

The Florida Police Benevolent Association represented corrections officers during Mateen’s stint, but probationary officers aren't part of the union.  Executive Director Matt Puckett said trainees are often dismissed during probation.

"It doesn’t seem unusual to me that someone in the academy could get dismissed," said PBA President Matt Puckett. "It’s possible the instructors realized this person wasn’t fit to be a corrections officer."