Survivors react to father of Pulse shooter at Clinton rally in Kissimmee

Survivor 'outraged' at Omar Mateen's father attending event

By Nadeen Yanes - Reporter

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Pulse survivors Jacobi Ceballo and Christopher Hansen had no idea they were in the same room as the father of shooter Omar Mateen until hours after a Monday rally for Hillary Clinton ended in Kissimmee. 

"I opened up my Facebook and it was the first thing I saw," Hansen said. "I was like, 'Oh!'"

But Ceballo wasn't only surprised, he was angry.

"I'm outraged," he said. "For him to come back to Orlando, where his son created devastation, was also mind-blowing. If I would have known that, I would have not come."

Ceballo attended the rally as a "plus one" guest with Hansen, who was contacted and invited by someone whom he presumed was from the Clinton campaign. Afterward, the two went backstage, met Clinton and took pictures with her, holding a sign with her new campaign message, "Standing Together."

But Ceballo is now questioning the slogan, wondering how the Clinton campaign didn't notice that Mateen's father was allowed to be in the center of the crowd behind the podium at which Clinton stood and addressed the Pulse massacre that left 49 dead and 53 others injured.

"I know how many people, family members, loved ones and friends are still grieving," Clinton said during the rally.

"Hillary has been supporting the LGBT community, she's been to Pulse, you know? To find out (Mateen's father) was there, it's really disappointing," Ceballo said. "I'm not happy about it at all. I feel, like, let down."

Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill released a statement Wednesday, saying, "(Clinton) disagrees with his views and disavows (Mateen's) support."

Hansen told News 6 that he believes it was a mere coincidence that Seddique Mateen was at the rally, saying he has the same freedoms as any other American.

"I'm not upset," Hansen said. "I explained to Jacobi that (Mateen's) is allowed to have his opinion because he is there just like everyone else, trying to show support."

Hansen said Mateen's son is to blame for the mass shooting. 

"Some people are riled up. Some people aren't," he said. "Me, myself -- you can't blame a parent for what a child has done."

Clinton's campaign sent a statement to News 6, saying it had no idea Seddique Mateen was at the rally. 

"The rally was a 3,000-person, open-door event for the public. This individual wasn't invited as a guest, and the campaign was unaware of his attendance until after the event," the campaign said. 
 

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