The Orlando nightclub shooter intended to attack Disney World’s shopping and entertainment complex by hiding a gun in a stroller but became spooked by police and instead chose the night club as his target, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Prosecutors revealed the details during their closing arguments in the trial of Noor Salman, the widow of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen. Salman, 31, is accused of aiding her husband in the attack that killed 49 people in 2016. She is charged with obstruction and providing material support to a terrorist organization.
“The defendant’s steps don’t have to equal to her husband,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Sweeney told jurors.
Jurors deliberated Wednesday whether the widow of the shooter lied to the FBI and helped her husband in the attack that killed 49 people or was an abused wife who knew nothing of his plans.
Noor Salman, 31, is charged with obstruction and providing material support to a terrorist organization. She faces up to life in prison if convicted of all charges.
Prosecutors said Salman and Mateen scouted out potential targets together — including Disney World’s shopping and entertainment complex — and she was with him as he stocked up on ammunition for his AR-15 in preparation for a jihadi attack.
In the hours after the shooting, she lied to the FBI about the number of guns her husband had and his internet use, which included watching beheadings and visiting Islamic State group websites.
“The defendant’s steps don’t have to be equal to her husband,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Sweeney told jurors.
Defense attorneys described Salman, who was born in California to Pakistani parents, as a simple woman with a low IQ. She was abused by her husband, who cheated on her with other women and concealed much of his life from her, they said.
Attorney Charles Swift said there was no way Salman knew that Mateen would attack the Pulse nightclub because even he didn’t know he would attack the nightclub until after he went to the Disney Springs complex.
“It’s a horrible, random, senseless killing by a monster,” Swift said. “But it wasn’t preplanned. The importance to this case is that if he didn’t know, she couldn’t know.”
He said Salman’s confession was coerced and she signed it because she was tired and feared losing her young son.
The statement said in part that “the last two years, Omar talked to me about jihad.” Swift said Salman wasn’t an extremist, and thus not capable of such a discussion.
“She still looks at Hello Kitty and romance novels,” he said.
Prosecutors said she advised Mateen to lie to his mother when she inquired of his whereabouts on the night of the shooting.
They said Mateen, who was born in New York to Afghani parents, intended to attack Disney World’s shopping and entertainment complex by hiding a gun in a stroller but became spooked by police and instead chose the gay club as his target.
Sweeney showed surveillance video of the Disney Springs complex that captured Mateen walking near the House of Blues club in the hours before the Pulse attack. In it, he looks behind him at police officers standing nearby before deciding to leave.
“He had to choose a new target,” she said.
Sweeney said Salman “knowingly engaged in misleading conduct” when she spoke to the FBI in the hours after the attack.
She claimed her husband didn’t use the internet in their home, but he did. She told investigators that Mateen had deactivated his Facebook account in 2013, but investigators found that he had an account up until the month of the shooting — and was friends with his wife. She said her husband only had one gun when he had three, and that he wasn’t radicalized.
Mateen, who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, was killed by police in the hours after the Pulse shooting.
Salman’s attorney took the jury through the hours of her life before the attack. She called a friend and her uncle in California, saying that she was coming to visit and that Mateen would be joining them.
She talked with her in-laws, ate at Applebee’s and texted Mateen. He didn’t respond. She later went on Facebook, read a book and then texted Mateen again.
“You know you work tomorrow,” she wrote.
He responded: “You know what happened?”
She wrote, “What happened?”
Then he sent his last text: “I love you babe.”
Swift said, “one person knows what’s happened in this, and one person doesn’t.”