At a Glance - January 23

Orlando Update: Prosecutor Says Shooter’s Widow Knew About the Attack

At the first court appearance of Noor Salman, the widow of Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen (see photo), federal prosecutor Roger Handberg told the judge that Salman knew Mateen was going to conduct the attack. He did not provide additional details. In an indictment unsealed last week, Salman was charged with aiding and abetting Mateen’s provision of material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and obstruction of justice. Following her initial court appearance last week in Oakland, California, she will be extradited to Florida to be tried on the charges, according to the Assistant US Attorney for the Middle District of Florida.

In mass casualty cases, federal prosecutors are increasingly pursuing federal charges against family members and friends who they believe had advance knowledge of attack plans and failed to report it to law enforcement. For example, in December 2015, Enrique Marquez, a longtime friend of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, was charged with conspiracy to provide material support because he and Farook plotted other attacks, which were never carried out, in 2011 and 2012. Marquez was also charged with the unlawful purchase of two assault rifles used by Farook and his wife in the deadly attack in San Bernardino in December 2015. In September 2015, Joseph Meek, a friend of Dylann Roof, the shooter at an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, was charged with making false statements to an FBI special agent. According to the indictment, Meek falsely told an agent that he did not know the specifics of Roof’s plan to shoot people at the church. Meek pleaded guilty in April 2016.


Fort Lauderdale Update: Shooter Claimed ISIS Influence, FBI Special Agent Testifies at Bond Hearing

Testifying last week at a bond hearing for alleged Fort Lauderdale airport shooter Esteban Santiago, an FBI special agent said that Santiago initially told investigators that his mind was under some kind of government control. Later in the interview, Santiago said that he had been inspired by ISIS-related chat rooms and websites. In the government testimony, there were no indications that investigators have corroborated any of Santiago’s claims of ISIS influence.

The FBI special agent, Michael Ferlazzo, also confirmed that the 9-mm Walther semiautomatic handgun used in the airport shooting is the same one confiscated from Santiago and later returned to him by police in Anchorage, Alaska, in November.

Regarding Santiago’s stay at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute late last year, Ferlazzo said records show that Santiago was given anti-anxiety medications, but no prescriptions for drugs that would treat serious mental conditions such as schizophrenia. After five days, he was released with no restrictions that would have prevented him from owning a gun, so the police returned his weapon to him. “He was deemed to be stable,” said Ferlazzo.


Ocean County: Barnegat Trash Can Explosion in October Was Not Manmade, ATF Investigation Concludes

An explosion in a trash can in Barnegat on October 13 (see photo) was not caused by any manmade materials, according to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. A follow-up report from a post-blast expert from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), received by the Prosecutor’s Office last week, stated that the explosion was organic. The report could not rule out that the cause was decomposed materials from the mulch, sticks, and other debris in the trash can “forming an endothermic [heat-absorbing] reaction,” which could have produced enough heat to cause the explosion.

The explosion did not cause any injuries, but it attracted considerable attention at the time, occurring just a month after a pipe bomb exploded along the route of a Marine Corps 5K charity run in Seaside Park.


For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at analysis@njohsp.gov or 609-584-4000.