Orlando Night Club Mass Shooting

Omar Mateen, a twenty-nine-year-old security guard, opened fire on a gay club in Orlando in June 2016, killing 49 people and injured 58 more. This incident was extensively characterized in the media as a hate crime or a terrorist attack, prompting the law enforcement authorities on the scene to shoot and kill Mateen following a three-hour standoff. The majority of those killed in this incident were Latinos from the LGBT community. This is mostly because the club was throwing a Latino themed party on the night of the event, and consequently many LGBT Latinos were present. About 320 people were in the popular night club known as Pulse, as the Latino themed parties were a Saturday night event at the club. This incident was also reported as the deadliest case of violence since the 9/11 terrorist attack that occurred in 2001. The incident was also considered a terrorist attack because the shooter dialed 9-1-1 and then pledged his allegiance to a terrorist group in Iraq called the ISIL. However, investigations from the CIA and the FBI on the case showed that the perpetrator had no linkages with these terrorist groups (Stoneheim, 2016).

Psychological Analysis of the Incident

The fact that the shooter approached the nightclub with a military style firearm, a handgun, and plenty of ammunition proves that the perpetrator went to Pulse night club with the intention of killing and injuring scores of people. While it’s still not clear what Mateen’s motive was between terrorist intentions or hate for the LGBT community, it is clear that the man’s intentions were fueled by hate. Hate can be considered as a complex emotion in psychology, thatencourages people to act like caring and loving people, but are instead separated from these people because of what they really feel deep inside. In addition, the crime also clearly perpetrated sentiments of hate because the impact of the action left the entire LGBT community especially from Orlando, feeling as if they are directly targeted. This is because the incident had an impact of widening the already existing societal problems surrounding the rights of the LGBT community. It led to the development of psychological trauma on the people targeted by the hate crime, whether or not the victim witnessed the shooting as they feel as part of a targeted group in the community (Ben-Ezra et al., 2017).

The hate perpetrated by Mateen in carrying out this crime can also be psychologically translated to hate for one’s self as a result of the loss of the person’s sense of significance. This means that it is possible that the perpetrator had developed an intense hatred towards the LGBT community leading him to storm into the club and mercilessly shoot at those who were in the facility. The problem hate could have been initiated by among other things, bullying, being discriminated as a minority in the U.S, and also as a result of personal failure. According to psychology, the brain is able to determine one’s behavior because it works through studying the environment the individual is in and reacting to the environment with regard to whether an individual is a friend or the enemy of the individual (Ben-Ezra et al., 2017). This leads those harboring sentiments of hate to reassure their sense of significance through the actions they get involved in. As such, it is easy to psycho-analyze Mateen’s actions in the shooting as an action to reassure him of his sense of significance, through the most primitive and primordial act he could in that instance, which was in the form of violence.

The perpetrator also admitted to having ideologies that were linked to the Islamic State of Iraq through pledging allegiance to the terrorist group of ISIL on a 9-1-1 call from the Pulse premises. Regardless of this, the investigative agencies confirmed that the man had no official linkages with the terrorist groups in Iraq. This therefore implies that the Islamic State ideologies mainly served the purpose of triggering the perpetrator to feel that he was justified to carry out the brutal actions he committed on that fateful day, leading to the death of 49 people and even more injured. The impact that the ideologies of the ISIL had on Mateen were to encourage him to act on the sentiments of hate that he harbored, which was to act in violence and avenge his dishonor. He identified with the message of these terrorist groups even after the CIA and the FBI and the CIA had proved that Mateen had no involvement with such groups (Ben-Ezraet al., 2017). This is because the terrorist group’s ideologies encourage victimized people to act through violence to make a point. This therefore goes to show that while he declared his allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist groups, his actions were mainly fueled by hate.

The Role Of Psychology In Understanding The Incident

The society we live in today allows us to understand humanity on three levels, namely on an individual level, as members of a community or a group that we identify with, and finally, as members of a greater and broader society which fits all individuals. Understanding the relationship that these three levels of self is what contributes to the behaviors and actions of individuals as the field of psychology expounds. Therefore, the principles of psychology have positively contributed to the understanding of the actions of the perpetrator of the June 2016 night club shootings in Orlando which lead to the death of about 50 people and the wounding of dozens others. Psychology helps to understand what motivated Omar Mateen to carry out this atrocious act (Craig, 2002). Understanding the background of psychological principles enabled the establishment of the motivating and underlying factors that led to the violent actions committed by Mateen on that fateful day.

For instance, psychology studies the development of emotions, and how emotions control the behavior of a given individual. The study of psychology has helped to identify that the emergence or the existence of a crisis contributes to people reverting to unfortunate actions and behavior. The atrocious act committed by Mateen was an unfortunate action that is in most cases as a result of a psychological crisis that the perpetrator was going through. The classification and stratification of societal groups has contributed to the development of an ‘us vs. them’ mentality which is the most common trigger of hate crimes against a given group or community (Craig, 2002). This has further led to the development of hate among different groups in the society that individuals identify with, and thus only rearing animosity between these groups. An individual with a considerable amount of hate and in a crisis is able to take matters into their own hands and commit an action that only causes harm and no good. This is the same case that Mateen was in when he walked ito the Pulse in Orlando at 2:00 am on Sunday, knowing full well that he was going to kill people from a select group in society namely the LGBT community. This therefore provides evidence that the perpetrator was in an emotional crisis that led him to resolve to commit the unfortunate actions that he did on that fateful day.

The principles and concepts and principles of psychology were also helpful as they helped to understand the impact that the actions committed on that day had on the victims, members of the specific targeted group, as well as the community at large. Understanding how the complex emotion of hate works also helped to identify the impact that the incident had on the individuals and the entire society at large. The fact that the incident was targeted at one specific group in the society namely the LGBT community, the incident left the people of this community with a lot of psychological trauma, because they feel singled out and targeted victims in the community. This is specifically true for those who were present at the incident and either saw or heard the perpetrator utter the hateful words he had against this community. Those who were there definitely underwent an intense level of trauma, and this is even worse for the victims who have scars to show or the families that lost their loved ones on that fateful day. Psychology is also insightful in explaining the impact that the entire LGBT community in Orlando felt after this incident occurred and why they felt singled out, targeted and under attack. The principles and concepts of psychology can also be used to explain how Mateen’s actions have worsened the ‘us vs. them ‘mentality, especially within the LGBT community which continues to face a lot of prejudice with regards to their right as members of the modern society. The incident therefore worsened the problems the community already had in society as they continue to face this prejudice and at the same time the psychological trauma that results from the June 12th, 2016 incident (Craig, 2002). Understanding psychology therefore helped to understand both the motivation the perpetrator had as well as the impact the incident had on the individuals and the LGBT community in Orlando and in the United States at large.


Ben-Ezra, M., Hamam-Raz, T., Mahat-Shammir, M., Pitcho-Prelorentzos, S., &Kaniasty, K. (2017). Shattering core beliefs: Psychological reactions to mass shooting in Orlando. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 85(1), 56-58.

Craig, K.M. (2002) Examining hate-motivated aggression: A review of the social psychological literature of hate crimes as a distinct form of aggression. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 7(1), 85-101.

Stoneheim, B. (2016). Orlando nightclub shooting: The worst ,ass shooting in United States History. Orlando Herald.

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