Pulse nightclub shooter’s cell phone data explored in wife’s trial
Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images(NEW YORK) — An extensive FBI review of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen’s cell phone records and internet searches in the weeks before the June 2016 attack revealed research about the Islamic State, U.S. bombings in the Middle East and how to buy a gun in Florida, according to testimony Wednesday in the federal trial of Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman.
It also revealed a flurry of text messages from Salman to her husband during the early morning hours in which he was massacring scores of nightclub patrons, which don’t seem to conform to the government’s argument that Salman knew about the attack and actively helped her husband plan it.
At 7:29 p.m on June 11, she wrote “calling your mom she’s worried” to her husband, according to an FBI computer expert who took the stand on Wednesday.
By 10 p.m. Mateen was Google searching information on Disneyworld and a school in Disney Springs. By 1:30 a.m. he was searching “downtown Orlando nightclubs.”
The shooting began shortly after 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, June 12.
At 2:42 a.m and again at 4:27 a.m, Salman texted Mateen, asking “where are you?” When Mateen texted back “everything OK,” Salman replied “your mom [is] worried about you, and so am I.”
A moment later, she texted, “you know you have to work tomorrow, right?” That was followed by texts to Mateen that included one that read “???” and two more that asked “what happened?”
On cross examination, FBI Special Agent Kim Rosecrans, acknowledged that in the days leading up to the attack, Mateen was also searching singles dating websites.
Salman, who has pleaded not guilty, is charged with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and obstruction of justice, and could face up to life in prison if convicted.
Both Mateen’s mother and sister testified for the prosecution on Wednesday afternoon, each confirming that Salman had told them Mateen was out to dinner with his friend Nemo the night of June 11. Both women also said they had never heard Mateen discuss violence, jihad, the Islamic State or terrorism.
Mateen’s sister Sabrina Abasin testified that she trusted Salman with her kids, that Salman never expressed political beliefs, only attended a mosque occasionally and was “more modern” than other female Muslim-Americans in the area, embracing U.S. holidays like Christmas and Halloween as well as Muslim holy days.
On cross-examination, Mateen’s mother, Shahla Mateen, agreed with defense attorney Fritz Schellar’s assertions that she considers Salman, her daughter-in-law, “naive” and “very much like a child” and that she had counseled Salman that she needs to be “more mature” and “needs to grow up.”
“She’s very naive….innocent, trusting of others?” Schellar asked.
“Right,” Mateen replied.
Prosecutors are expected to wrap up their case on Thursday, and the defense is expected to call eight to 10 witnesses over two days next week. Closing arguments could begin as early as next Wednesday.
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