Man recalls time on high school bus with Orlando shooter

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – 29-year-old Omar Mateen, a face many across the United State have come to know after authorities say he was the lone gunman who opened fire in an Orlando Florida night club killing 49 people and inuring 53 others.

The face of a suspected killer, a familiar one to Robert Zirkle.

“I was a little shocked at first, I was surprised really, somebody showed me the picture on Facebook and I was like wow that’s the kid I knew since back when I was little you know,” Robert Zirkle said.

Zirkle moved to Johnson City nearly a decade ago from Martin County Florida. He was in the same school system with shooting suspect Omar Marteen at the time Zirkle was a freshman in high school.

“I was surprised but at the same time I kind of wasn’t just because of how he acted and stuff sometimes in school. He was always a little out there and didn’t really have too many friends.”

According to Zirkle Mateen attended Spectrum Alternative school. Zirkle says they would ride the same bus to different schools in the county not really having much contact.

Zirkle recalled a memorable incident with Mateen centered on another United States tragedy, September 11th 2001.

“He was acting like a plane and he had his arms out and he was making a plane noise and he made like a boom noise and like an explosion type of sound and fell on his seat and was like laughing about it like it was a joke or something.”

A joke Zirkle and his friends did not take too kindly towards.

“My friends and I were like if you don’t stop man it is going to be a problem, it is not a joke and he would just laugh about it, like it was.”

Zirkle says he and Mateen haven’t spoken since high school. It wasn’t until the tragic shooting that he once again heard the name he says he could never forget.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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