The international security company G4S has confirmed that Omar Mateen, who slaughtered 50 people in the Pulse LGBT nightclub, was one of their employees.
“We are deeply shocked by this tragic event,” said the company's North America CEO John Kenning after the Orlando nightclub killings. “We can confirm that Omar Mateen had been employed by G4S since September 10th, 2007. Mateen was off-duty at the time of the incident. He was employed at a gated retirement community in South Florida.
“Mateen underwent company screening and background checks when he was recruited in 2007 and the check revealed nothing of concern. His screening was repeated in 2013 with no findings.
“We are cooperating fully with all law enforcement authorities, including the FBI, as they conduct their investigations. In 2013, we learned that Mateen had been questioned by the FBI but that the enquiries were subsequently closed. We were not made aware of any alleged connections between Mateen and terrorist activities, and were unaware of any further FBI investigations.
“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims of this unspeakable tragedy, and their friends and families.”
G4S claims expertise in vetting and screening employees: “A robust employee screening programme helps organisations minimise the risk of making inappropriate recruitment decisions,” G4S tells potential customers. “We have a wealth of experience in developing and implementing background checks and security clearance for companies in the private and public sector.”
But time and again racist, misogynist and otherwise dangerous people have slipped through the company’s own screening process and been given power over vulnerable people. Repeatedly the company’s readiness to act in response to warnings has been found wanting.
Khanokporn Satjawat — murdered by G4S guard, November 2012
In November 2012 a 42 year-old pharmaceutical worker from Thailand took part in a conference about HIV treatment at Glasgow’s Clyde Auditorium. Her name was Khanokporn Satjawat. A G4S guard checked Satjawat’s ID. He didn’t like her manner. Later he followed her into the toilets and bludgeoned her to death with a fire extinguisher.
At the High Court in Glasgow in October 2013, Clive Carter was found guilty of Khanokporn Satjawat’s murder. The court heard that the huge G4S guard (six foot five) tended to become enraged when women contradicted him. In a police interview his wife described the 35 year-old as “violent and manipulative”. His GP had referred him for anger management counselling.
Khanokporn SatjawatA few days before the killing, Carter had knocked on a woman’s door at the Holiday Inn Express hotel, carrying a fire extinguisher and claiming there had been a report of a fire.
In response to my questions after the murder verdict, a G4S spokesperson said:
“Clive Carter passed screening in May 2010, following receipt of two employment references and two character references. He had a Security Industry Authority license and therefore went through Home Office screening including a criminal record check.”
The company went on:
“His instability only became apparent after the murder . . . The incident at the Holiday Inn was not reported to G4S and only came to our attention during the trial. Had we received any complaint concerning him at that time, we would have immediately launched an investigation and if necessary suspended him from duty whilst that investigation was underway.”
But G4S’s readiness to act in response to warnings of risk has repeatedly been found wanting.
Jimmy Mubenga unlawfully killed by G4S guards, October 2010
In July 2013 in London an inquest jury found that G4S guards had unlawfully killed Jimmy Mubenga during an attempted deportation in October 2010. Jimmy Mubenga was a healthy 46 year old and the father of five children.
After the killing, on a British Airways plane at London’s Heathrow airport, police checks on guards’ mobile phones revealed numerous racist texts that were extremely offensive. Assistant deputy coroner Karon Monaghan QC said that the quality and number of racist texts, and the fact that they were circulated widely among G4S guards, suggested not a couple of “rotten apples” but evidence of “a more pervasive racism within G4S”. [PDF here]
The coroner wrote: “For example, one message read as follows: ‘fuck off and go home you free-loading, benefit grabbing, kid producing, violent, non-English speaking cock suckers and take those hairy faced, sandal wearing, bomb making, goat fucking, smelly rag head bastards with you.’”
The racist texts were withheld from jurors who found three G4S guards not guilty of manslaughter in December 2014.
G4S, among other UK government contractors, had for years been warned about the dangers of excessive force and guards’ racist abuse, most resoundingly in a dossier compiled by medics and lawyers entitled Outsourcing Abuse, published by the charity Medical Justice in July 2008, more than two years before the killing of Jimmy Mubenga.
G4S man Danny Fitzsimons kills 2, August 2009
Another G4S employee approved by the company’s screening process was Danny Fitzsimons, a former paratrooper passed fit for work in Iraq while he was on bail for firearms offences and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Ahead of Fitzsimons’s deployment in 2009, a fellow worker sent a series of emails warning G4S about the man’s instability.
“I am alarmed that he will shortly be allowed to handle a weapon and be exposed to members of the public,” wrote the whistleblower, signing one email “a concerned member of the public and father”.
Another email warned:
“Having made you aware of the issues regarding the violent criminal Danny Fitzsimons, it has been noted that you have not taken my advice and still choose to employ him in a position of trust. I have told you that he remains a threat and you have done nothing.”
Within 36 hours of arriving in Baghdad’s Green Zone in August 2009, Fitzsimons had shot and killed fellow security contractors Paul McGuigan and Darren Hoare.
In 2011 the Karkh Criminal Court of Iraq sentenced him to life in prison for the murders.
His parents said he was suffering from PTSD and should never have been employed in a war zone.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of the charity Reprieve, said:
“If G4S had done the proper checks and risk assessments when Danny applied to work with them, they would have quickly seen that he was suffering from serious PTSD, a consequence of loyally serving his country. Instead they conducted minimal checks and sent him off to Iraq. Now Danny could spend the rest of his life in a hostile prison hundreds of miles from home, when he should be receiving psychiatric treatment.”
Reporters at BBC Scotland who revealed the emailed warnings also discovered that the company had carried out two audits five months before the shooting which found shortcomings in its screening and vetting systems.
Gareth Myatt, 15, dies “under restraint” by G4S guards, 2004
In 2004, a boy called Gareth Myatt was restrained to death by G4S guards at Rainsbrook child prison near Rugby, England. He was 15 years old, of mixed race, small for his age and weighed just 40kg.
One of the guards involved in the restraint was six foot tall Dave Beadnall, who weighed 100kg. An inquest held in 2007 heard that when Gareth complained: “I can’t breathe”, Beadnall responded: “if you can talk then you can breathe.”
When Gareth said he was going to defecate, he was told: “you are going to have to shit yourself”, and the restraint continued.
Gareth MyattThe inquest heard that one year before Gareth died, David Beadnall had been investigated for overuse of pain-inducing ‘distraction techniques’. Beadnall told the inquest he had no recollection of that.
G4S training documents listed guards’ nicknames. They included “Clubber”, “Crusher” and “Mauler”.
An inquest jury ruled that Gareth’s death was “accidental”.
After the inquest, the coroner, Judge Pollard wrote personally to then justice secretary Jack Straw to ensure that no other child should be harmed by improper restraint methods, and to highlight the remarkable failure of G4S’s management to act on reports of abuses. (The coroner refers to Rebound, the division of G4S responsible for Rainsbrook).
“Inadequacy in the monitoring of the use of Physical Control in Care at Rainsbrook by Rebound management caused or contributed to Gareth’s death,” wrote the coroner. “We also wish to record that there was a problem with the lack of response by Rebound to the information from Rainsbrook.”
Three years ago I revealed that since Gareth’s death Dave Beadnall had been promoted and was working as health and safety manager for G4S children’s homes. A G4S spokeswoman told me: “His current role does not involve any direct contact with young people.”
Questions regarding the company’s culture and competence are frequent and grave.
In October 2013 the South African prison authorities took over management of the Mangaung maximum security prison run by G4S after the security company “lost control” of the prison. G4S strongly denied allegations that it had forcibly administered medication and electric shock treatment to Mangaung inmates.
In England this year Kent police have made 11 arrests in relation to abuse allegations after the BBC’s Panorama programme broadcast undercover footage of children at Medway Secure Training Centre being subjected to physical and emotional abuse by G4S guards.