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Statements to FBI by Widow of Pulse Shooter May Doom Her to Life in Prison

Noor Salman
Charles Treadwell

Noor Salman's statements after the massacre at a gay nightclub -- committed by her husband -- indicate she knew exactly what was going to happen.

Hand-written statements, scrawled by an FBI agent but initialed at every paragraph by the Pulse shooter's wife, show she'd seen warning signs. Noor Salman stopped letting her toddler sit with his father at the computer as Omar Mateen viewed jihadi videos of beheadings. She listened as he pondered aloud what would make people more upset, an attack on Downtown Disney or a dance club? And then there's the time he drove around Pulse with Salman in the car for 20 minutes and stated, "How upset are people going to be when it gets attacked?"

The series of increasingly incriminating anecdotes indicate Salman knew not only that her husband might be involved in a terrorist attack but that she knew where it would take place and that he was likely on his way to committing murder when he left home the night before. Whether a jury believes these notes to be the confession of a mass murderer's accomplice or the unreliable words of a wife in distress being coerced by law enforcement on a witch hunt could likely determine if Salman goes to prison for the rest of her life, convicted of aiding and abetting a terrorist and obstructing justice.

Special Agent Ricardo Enriquez, who wrote the damning statements based on an interview with Salman the day of the June 12, 2016 attack at Pulse, says Salman revealed more information about her husband as a lengthy interview continued. She told Enriquez that the day before the attack, Mateen grabbed her before leaving his apartment and said, "This is the day," before proceeding to Orlando and ultimately opening fire inside the club. Mateen ultimately died at the hands of law enforcement after an hours-long standoff. Another 49 were killed at Pulse and 53 more were injured.

But defense attorneys say the documents should not be trusted by jurors. Salman attorney Charles Swift on Monday asked for a second time that Judge Paul Bryant suppress the statement from consideration in the trial; Bryant on Monday again declined.

Over the course of Salman's federal trial, Swift has attacked the tactics and candor of both Enriquez and Special Agent Christopher Mayo.

Last Thursday, Mayo testified he interviewed Salman shortly after the attack. Mayo says when he first talked to Salman about whether her husband had any enemies, Salman responded everybody likes him, and specifically that he "likes homosexuals" because they, like Muslims, face discrimination in the U.S. The unsolicited remark struck Mayo as odd, he says, because Salman had not yet been told a shooting occurred at a gay club. During cross-examination, though, Swift suggested Mayo intentionally misquoted Salman. In initial notes, Mayo at one point wrote down Salman referenced "gay people," but Swift alleged Mayo changed that to "homosexuals" in his official report to make Salman look "worse." Mayo later said in court he did not consider the term "homosexuals" a slur or a less-preferred term to "gay."

But Mayo says he never did tell Salman that Mateen had died. Rather, Enriquez did so hours later, in the same conference room where Mayo spoke to the widow as her and Mateen's three-year-old child played at a table a few feet away.

Salman was never taken to a room with video or audio recording equipment, so the FBI never did capture any statement she made to Mayo or Enriquez in her own voice. But after Enriquez prepared a signed statement, she initialed the words as accurate depictions, and she added a few hand-written notes, including one that prosecutors zeroed in on during opening statements for the trial. It read: "I am sorry for what happened. I wish I could go back and tell his family and the police what he was going to do."

Swift, though, argued in a motion to the court that Mayo's story has changed about whether Salman willingly stayed with agents for an interview when she'd not been put under arrest. In a pre-trial hearing, Mayo testified Salman never asked to leave FBI offices, but in court Thursday, Mayo testified Salman at one point said she wanted to go home, but the agent informed her the home could not be used until authorities searched it. Salman eventually gave consent to authorities to do so without a warrant.

Swift also jumped on at least one deception Enriquez made over the course of the interview with Salman. The agent asked Salman if she'd ever been to a shooting range with Mateen. She initially said she had not, but Enriquez then said the FBI had footage of Mateen at the range, and Salman changed her story to say she had gone with him before. But Enriquez did not have such footage. Swift in court called this a "ruse."

While court proceedings so far have included graphic evidence including body camera footage from police during the raid of the club and security footage of Mateen in the act of shooting people at Pulse, the statement signed by Salman remains one of the most critical pieces of evidence in the case against the widow. And beyond the statements, the agents say she made remarks that seemed of greater concern the more authorities learned of Mateen's actions before the shooting at Pulse began.

For example, Mayo testified that when the FBI told her she may need to be taken to Orlando, she asked if they were taking her to Disney World. While Swift suggested in court that the remark should be viewed as a joke, the night of June 11, Mateen visited the House of Blues at Downtown Disney before ultimately driving to Pulse.

Defense attorneys have said much of the statement was coerced, and that forensic data like cell phone records in fact proves much of the information supposedly shared by Salman could not be true. For example, there's no evidence of Mateen visiting the Pulse site, and there's no GPS or cell phone data showing the drive around Pulse during the family visit to Orlando shortly before the attack.

And while the statement describes Salman finding Mateen on June 10 looking at the website for Pulse and telling her "this is my target," inspection of Mateen's computer after the attack does not show that in his history.

The information comes on top of testimony from Fort Pierce Lt. William Hall, the detective dispatched to Salman and Mateen's Fort Pierce apartment before the standoff in Orlando even ended, who says Salman told him her husband was "safe" with guns and wouldn't hurt anybody even before she knew a shooting took place. That conversation took place after Mateen texted his wife from inside the club asking if she'd seen the news.

Mayo says he took Salman to the FBI the morning of June 12. Her first signed statement with Enriquez has the time marked by her signature as 2:32 p.m., more than 12 hours after the first shots were fired in the club, and her third statement has the time marked as 4:43 p.m.

The end of Salman's statement offers descriptions of Mateen leaving the house with a backpack full of ammunition, asking if he "looks Spanish." The attack took place on Latin night. And it says Mateen holstered a gun before saying, "This is the one day" and driving north to Orlando.

The final words of the statement were written by Salman. "I'm very sorry I lied to the FBI," they read. "These are my words." As Salman left the FBI offices, agents testified, she thanked them for everything they had done.

Read Salman's statements below:













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