The investigation into the shooting rampage carried out by Omar Mateen, which resulted in the deaths of 49 people at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, has focused new attention on the wife of the shooter.
Authorities have indicated that Mateen’s wife, Noor Z. Salman, accompanied him to buy ammunition and on a reconnaissance trip to Pulse nightclub before the attack occurred. Salman told police that she did not know Mateen was planning on using the ammunition to kill people and that he had made such purchases in the past. Law enforcement officials have said that Salman also went with Mateen to Disney Springs, but it’s not clear that she knew about his intentions to scope out the location for a possible attack.
According to news reports, Salman told law enforcement that she knew Mateen had an interest in carrying out an attack, but that she was not aware of any specific plans. Salman subsequently gave inconsistent statements to law enforcement stating that she had suspicions that Mateen might be planning an attack and that she tried telling him not to commit violence. Salman did not alert police at any point prior to the attack.
Federal authorities have convened a federal grand jury in Florida to investigate whether criminal charges should be brought against Salman. For federal prosecutors, grand juries are used to investigate felony crimes, determine whether charges should be filed, and to help prosecutors build a case. NPR has reported that the grand jury has been meeting for several days but it is unclear which district will be handling the grand jury proceedings as the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern and Middle District of Florida will not comment on any grand jury investigations.
If Salman had knowledge of her husband’s plans to target Pulse nightclub and failed to alert the police, she could face charges ranging from misprision of a felony, aiding an abetting a crime, or even conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism depending on her level of involvement and culpability. In order to be charged as an accomplice, Salman would have had to take an affirmative step to help Mateen carry out the attack. At this point, investigators are still in the process of gathering evidence and it is unclear whether Salman will ultimately be charged.
If federal prosecutors do decide to charge her, the most likely charge she will face is misprision of a felony. Under federal law, misprision requires that the accused had knowledge that the principal was going to commit the crime, that the accused failed to alert law enforcement, and that the accused took affirmative steps to conceal the crime of the principal. Taking affirmative steps to conceal the crime could include lying to authorities or encouraging others to withhold information from law enforcement. Misprision of a felony is punishable by up to three years in prison.
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