It was Latin Night and nearly every person inside the nightclub was dancing, drinking, or hooking up. All with the exception of one individual, who had come to the gay dance club with two things on his mind; vindication and vengeance. At least, those were what he believed he had come for, anyway.
Unfortunately, the lives of everyone in the Orlando nightclub that evening were about to change, as were the lives of those who loved them. This included one unfortunate woman whose future was about to be both freed, then stolen all in the same breath…
Not Over Yet
Noor Salman awoke at her home to the sound of the doorbell ringing. She opened it to find several FBI agents standing before her. She and her son were to accompany them to the local FBI office in Fort Pierce, Florida to discuss her husband. She had no idea why or what he had done, but she would learn the truth soon enough.
Shots Ring Out
It happened on June 12, 2016. 29-year-old security guard Omar Mateen walked into the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and killed 40 people. He also wounded 53 others. Eventually, Orlando police officers eventually managed to shoot and killed the mass murderer, but that was only after a three-hour-standoff…
After the initial shots were fired, the nightclub turned into something of a hostage situation. An early 911 call recorded Mateen swearing allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He also explained that the attack was prompted by the U.S. killing of Abu Waheeb in Iraq the previous month. In short, this was an act of terrorism.
Meanwhile, people trapped inside the club did what they could to help one another and call for help. When the negotiator arrived, he added to the explanation by saying that the American-led interventions in Iraq and in Syria had also driven him to such a violent act. He requested that the negotiator tell the United States to stop the bombing…
The FBI eventually determined that the incident, tragic as it was, did not classify as an anti-gay hate crime. All evidence suggested that Mateen had scouted several different targets before he chose Pulse. He hadn’t known it was a gay club and had not mentioned the clientele as a reason for the mass shooting in any conversations with negotiators.
This tragedy became known as the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history. It also happened to be the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since the September 11 attacks in 2001, as well as one of the deadliest single shooter terrorist act in U.S. history, until one in Vegas a year later. Mateen met his end, but the story was far from over…
Following the massacre, Noor Salman sat in an FBI interrogation room. She sat there, answering questions for over a dozen hours. She never asked to leave, nor did she ask for a lawyer. For the first three hours or so, she believed that she would eventually be returning home to her husband after. It was something she wasn’t looking forward to.
Mateen had not been a good husband. By Noor’s own admission, he had raped her, strangled her, controlled her daily activities, and threatened her life and her son on more than one occasion. Not only that, but he’d also managed to prove to the FBI on a previous occasion that he was more than capable of outsmarting the system…
The Right Answers
In 2012, the FBI had question Mateen because they suspected that he supported violent extremism, that he might be a terrorist. Despite the fact that he very clearly was, they had let him go. If he had done it before, he could do it again, and Noor wasn’t about to let herself or her son be at the wrong end of his anger because of something she told the FBI.
The True Extent
Eventually, Noor learned of the horrible things her husband had done. She also learned that he was dead. She was now a widow and that meant that she was finally free. The bad-tempered, authoritarian man who had delighted in watching grisly beheading videos on his phone at work was gone. But the gruesome legacy of his final deeds would continue to haunt her in many ways for the years to come…
A Fateful Signing
The FBI, meanwhile, believed that Noor Salman had been involved in and knew of Mateen’s plan from the start. They were even able to get the shocked, exhausted, frightened woman to sign a confession stating that she was aiding and abetting her ex-husband as well as obstructing justice. After twelve hours of questioning, it’s no wonder she signed.
Salman ended up pleading not guilty to the charges and her attorneys moved to dismiss the obstruction charge; a motion that was ultimately denied. They still had one ace up their sleeve, however, the fact that the FBI was withholding certain information on Mateen’s family members, one of whom was an FBI informant with the bureau for years…
During her trial, the prosecution also revealed that Salman’s confession that she helped Mateen to scout potential attack locations, was simply not true. This was based on cell phone evidence and the FBI denied her bail regardless. This, combined with the many missteps and misunderstandings within the evidence, led to a number of egregious inconsistencies.
Despite the clear evidence of her abuse at her ex-husband’s hands, Salman’s defense attorneys decided to use it very little in their arguments. Instead, they focused on the fact that she didn’t know of Mateen’s plans before the attack. They didn’t want to discount her victimhood, as it was pertinent, but they seemed to think the path to winning lay in focusing on the FBI’s own mistakes rather than her actual humanity…
Devastating for All
Eventually, the jury had no choice but to acquit Salman of the remaining charges. One survivor of the shooting called the acquittal “devastating” for the victims of the tragedy. And while those sentiments were mirrored among many of those victims’ families, Salman herself was facing her own quiet devastation as a result of her deceased husband’s reprehensible actions.
No Peace, Only Quiet
Following the trial, Salman kept mostly quiet about the attack, nor did she take the stand in court. She turned down multiple requests for interviews and tried her best to just get back to her life with her son. Mateen was dead and neither she nor the victims and their families could find peace or resolution as a result…
It seems that in glazing over Salman’s abuse, the prosecution, the FBI, and even her own attorneys, managed to forget that she was more than just the wife of a killer; she was another of his many victims. This was perhaps due to the fact that many law-enforcement officials often overlook the power and control that abusers can have over their victims.
The True Victim
It isn’t just law enforcement either. The uninformed may misinterpret a victim’s silence, desire to not press charges, or defense of their abuser as a sign they might be mentally or emotionally unstable. In reality, they are all signs of self-preservation. They say to the abuser “I am loyal, please don’t hurt me or my son when they leave.”
Prisoner to Survivor
Salman went from a passive prisoner to a survivor. Mateen had all but made certain that she had no means of escaping him while she was alive. He kept her from working or leaving their home, he beat her and threatened the loss of her son. She had endured his abuse longer than any of his other victims and survived.
The Opinions of Others
Even after she was declared innocent of any involvement, many of the victims of the Orlando Nightclub Shooting don’t see it that way. That said, there are some who see her as the additional victim she truly is..