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Gun Shop Owner: 'Evil Person' Bought Weapons Legally Before Orlando Attack

Krystle Martin weeps as she views a memorial Monday for the victims of the fatal shootings at the Pulse Orlando nightclub in Florida.
Chris O'Meara
Krystle Martin weeps as she views a memorial Monday for the victims of the fatal shootings at the Pulse Orlando nightclub in Florida.

The owner of the gun shop where Omar Mateen, the shooter in the Orlando nightclub attack, legally bought two guns called the assailant "an evil person" who had passed a full background check.

Ed Henson, owner of the St. Lucie Shooting Center, held a brief news conference Monday afternoon, saying if Mateen "hadn't purchased them from us, I'm sure he would have gotten them from another local gun store in the area."

Henson said he used to be a New York City police officer, had worked at the twin towers in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and retired in March 2002.

He said Mateen had multiple security guard licenses, one armed and another unarmed, and passed the background check required under law. He said he doesn't recall exactly when Mateen made the purchases of a long gun and a handgun, but that the weapons were bought separately in a period of about a week.

Henson bristled at reports that he said suggested that Mateen benefited from a cursory background check. "There's no such thing as an abbreviated background check," he said. He also said reports that Mateen bought body armor at his gun shop were wrong. "We've never sold body armor, and we don't currently sell body armor," he said.

Henson acknowledged that he had seen Mateen in his shop but said that he didn't know the gunman. He referred to Mateen several times but never directly by his name, only as the "evil person."

"I'm just sorry he picked my place," said Henson. "I wish he had picked no place."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.