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Authorities Move To Pin Down Motive For Orlando Shooting Spree


Now, the more we learn about Omar Mateen, the gunman who killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in the city, the more complicated this man seems. He pledged allegiance to ISIS. His wife accused him of domestic abuse. And some allege he visited the gay night club himself before he carried out this attack. Now, all we really know for sure is that he killed 49 people Sunday and injured scores others. But the urge to pin down some kind of motive seems to be overwhelming right now. And let's talk about this with Clint Van Zandt. He's a former chief hostage negotiator with the FBI. And he's on the line.

Mr. Van Zandt, good morning.

CLINT VAN ZANDT: Hi. Good morning. Good to be with you.

GREENE: Well, thanks for coming on. We appreciate it. If you were working on this case, I mean, what would be standing out to you right now in the case of Omar Mateen?

VAN ZANDT: Well, you make the point of motive, and I think that's a good point to make. The FBI needs to understand motive for a couple of reasons. Number one, of course, we want to know what caused this individual to do it. Who contributed, either emotionally, financially, physically, to this? Was this a lone wolf who was simply motivated by what he read on the internet, or was he inspired by someone locally? Was he financed? We don't know.

And the second reason is - why we look for motive is - in the future, we know, unfortunately, these mass murders happen in the United States. These numbers continue to go up. And I think the FBI and law enforcement are looking for some type of clues. We're always told to connect the dots. Well, we have to find the dots. We have to understand what they are. And part...

GREENE: Collect the dots before you connect the dots, I guess.

VAN ZANDT: Yeah, yeah. You have to see the dots before you connect the dots.

GREENE: Well, so you - I suppose the importance here of finding some sort of motive is so you can decide how - if and how to act to prevent something like this in the future. Is that what we're really talking about here?

VAN ZANDT: Well, we would love to have some type of psychological litmus test that we could give to an individual like this, anybody that comes up on police or FBI radar. And we start to question, you know, does he have the potential to commit any type of act of violence? But, you know, realize this shooter - and I think the director of the FBI and others are wise not to use his name; we don't want to inspire others by his action. But the shooter we know - we're told has taken at least two or three MMPI psych tests over the years. Now, as you know, that's a...

GREENE: And what is an MMPI psych test, just so we understand that?

VAN ZANDT: Yeah. An MMPI test is a standard psychological test. It's about 600 questions. It takes about an hour to do. And it explores all aspects of an individual's personality, as well as it has various abilities to tell you if someone is faking it, if they're trying to be too good or too bad or too smart. Those are built in. So it's a standard test. It's been around for years and years. But it's a - it's a good law enforcement test. It's a good security test. And it's kind of the first thing you'd give someone in a more sophisticated background investigation to suggest if there are aspects of that personality that ought to be explored.

GREENE: So he would've taken this test. Would he have been forced to take this test by, say, the FBI when they were questioning him?

VAN ZANDT: No, no. He would have been required to take it as part of his security officer...

GREENE: I see.

VAN ZANDT: ...The company that he worked for. But they would've had those results and would've screened those results before they put him in that position. So what I'm suggesting is this wasn't just someone who was hired off the street, given a plastic badge and said go to work. There was a more sophisticated background that went in when he was hired almost a decade ago.

GREENE: You know, it feels like the public seems to want, for some emotional reason, to get to the bottom of this in some concrete way. You know, was this radical Islam? Was this homophobia? Was it anger management issues? But, I mean, is it possible that investigators are just going to have to say this is a complex picture, I mean, we just might not know?

VAN ZANDT: I don't think there's going to be one cause that we're going to find. I mean, human beings are complex. And this individual was, too. As you suggest, there are multiple motives that have come up that have fed into this. And to say there's only one reason - now, there are going to be people for their own political causes are going to choose one motivation and try to stand up on a mountain and scream whatever that is. But the reality is we human beings are complex. There are various reasons we do things. But, of course, one of the things police, FBI want to know is why now.


VAN ZANDT: If this individual has going - has been going through this social metamorphosis, the emotional challenges, the issues with his former wife, all of these have been going on for almost a decade. Why now?

GREENE: Clint Van Zandt is a former chief hostage negotiator for the FBI. Thanks a lot.

VAN ZANDT: You got it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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