Did the FBI Force the Pulse Gunman’s Widow to Make a False Confession?
At the end of December, the FBI released a 12-page statement from Noor Salman, the widow of Omar Mateen. Mateen was the gunman who fired on the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016. The statement says that not only did Salman know about the attack beforehand, she helped plan it. However, Salman’s lawyers are saying the Pulse shooting confession was coerced and shouldn’t be allowed into evidence.
The Pulse shooting confession
Salman’s signed, handwritten confession from the day of the shooting says Mateen looked at “Jihad websites … almost every day.” It also says he watched “violent Jihad videos” in front of their son. Salman says she asked him to turn the videos off, but he refused. She also describes his extravagant spending in the days before the attack. However the meat of the confession is when she says she knew about the attack beforehand.
I suspected it was going to be something having to do with a club, but I did not know for sure. I suspected it was a club because of the things he said to me. I knew on Saturday, when Omar left the house at about 5 p.m. that this was the time he was going to do something bad. I knew this because of the way he left and took the gun and backpack with ammunition to see [his friend] Nemo. I knew later, when I could not get ahold of him that my fears had come true and he did what he said he was going to do. I was in denial and I could not believe that the father of my child was going to hurt other people. When I got a text message from Omar at 4 a.m., I knew that he did what he said he was going to do.
When I went to Orlando with Omar last week [the week before the shooting], we drove around the Pulse nightclub after we ate at the Arabic restaurant. We drove around the Pulse nightclub for about 20 minutes with the windows of the car down. Omar was driving slowly, looking around and at one point stated, “how upset are people going to be when it gets attacked.”
On Friday, June 10, 2016, late night, Omar was looking at a website for the Pulse nightclub and when he saw what he was looking at, he said, “This is my target.” I knew that the time to attack the club was close.
On Saturday, June 11, 2016, before Omar left the house, he asked me if he “looks Spanish.” He was pumped up, had the ammunition backpack and his gun and said to me “this is the one day.” I knew when he left the house he was going to Orlando to attack the Pulse nightclub.
In a different hand, “I’m very sorry I lied to the FBI. These are my words,” is written at the bottom of the confession. The handwriting changes a few times through the document — in the second style of handwriting, she says she “asked Agent Enriquez to write my statement; I was too nervous.” Presumably, one style of handwriting is Salman’s, and the other is FBI Special Agent Ricardo Enriquez.
Salman’s lawyers want to keep the Pulse shooting confession from being admitted as evidence
Salman’s attorneys allege the Pulse shooting confession was coerced. They say Salman was questioned for 18 hours without an attorney present. The interview was not recorded, neither video nor audio. They also point out that as the statement progresses, her story changes. Her attorneys also allege that Salman was not properly told her Miranda Rights.
United States attorneys say that Salman was not in custody and could leave at any time. They say all her statements were voluntary. Salman’s attorneys are bringing in an expert on false confessions to testify on her behalf. Agent Enriquez was also questioned, though he stood by the confession, saying he believed “that she knew” about the attack beforehand.
Salman is charged with providing material support to a terror organization and obstruction of justice. Her trial is slated to begin Mar. 1.