Gunman’s wife says she tried to talk him out of attack, officials say
Noor Mateen, the 30-year-old wife of Omar Mateen, the shooter at the Orlando gay club massacre, is being considered for possible criminal charges, officials say. A law enforcement official told ABC News that she may have known something about the incident in advance but claims she tried to talk him out of the assault.
Law enforcement officials told ABC News that Mateen’s wife drove with him to the Pulse nightclub at least once in the past.
News of the potential involvement of Mateen’s wife comes just moments after doctors at Orlando Health, a hospital where first-responders brought victims of the shooting, warned that the death toll may rise in the wake of the shooting.
A press conference was held this morning at the hospital to provide updates about the status of survivors of the attack. Dr. Michael Cheatham informed the press that of the 44 patients that were brought to his hospital, 27 were still being treated. Of those 27, six patients were “critically ill.”
Cheatham said that he would be surprised if the death toll did not rise.
Angel Colon, a survivor of the attack, told the story of his ordeal at club, and expressed his gratitude to the doctors at the hospital. The young man wiped back tears from his eyes as he described being shot in the leg, and collapsing on the ground, where he was trampled by fleeing clubgoers. Colon also expressed gratitude to a police officer who dragged him out of the club. Colon said that the floor of Pulse was littered with broken glass, and that he could sense that his body was wet with blood.
“If it wasn’t for you guys, I wouldn’t be here,” Colon said to the staff of the hospital, his voice shaking with emotion. “I will love you guys forever.”
Doctors who were called to the scene in the wake of the massacre described the trauma center at Orlando Health as resembling a “war scene.” They described the Herculean effort that was required of staff in order to meet the demands created by the bloodshed. Cheatham called it a “team effort.”
Mateen, the killer, was said to be a regular at Pulse and other gay clubs in Florida, according to witnesses. Estella Peterkin, head of security at Pulse, told ABC News she had to kick him out for bad behavior on multiple occasions.
The shooting unfolded over the course of three hours early Sunday morning when Mateen approached the Pulse nightclub armed with a .223 caliber AR-type rifle and a Glock handgun. After engaging in gunfire with an officer stationed outside the club, he entered and sprayed the venue with bullets. Fifty people are dead, including the gunman, and 53 others were injured in the attack.
Mateen, of St. Lucie County, Florida, was an American citizen with Afghan parents. Mateen’s ex-wife told ABC News that he was a “sick person” and was abusive to her in their marriage.
The FBI told reporters Monday that Mateen spoke with police three different times from the club during the attack, which started at about 2:30 a.m. on Sunday. He called and hung up, called again and spoke with a dispatcher. The dispatcher then returned his call, according to the FBI.
Mateen was “cool and calm” during their conversations, according to police, and didn’t make any demands. Survivors of the attack, however, said they heard Mateen say he wanted America to “stop bombing ISIS in Syria”.
In his phone exchange with police, Mateen pledged allegiance to the terror group ISIS and referenced the 2013 Boston Marathon bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, officials said. He also referenced U.S. suicide bomber Moner Abusalha.
The FBI said in a statement Monday that Mateen had been interviewed by authorities in 2014 because of alleged ties to Abusalha, the son of a Palestinian father and American mother, who died on May 24, 2014, at the age of 22. Abusalha drove a truck packed with explosives into a government outpost in Syria, detonating the charge.
Vigils were held last night to honor victims of the Pulse shooting. Orlando’s tight-knit LGBT community continues to grieve the tragedy.