Pulse gunman was at Disney Springs, Eve nightclub before shooting, widow's defense says

Noor Salman trial underway; defense pokes holes in 'signed confession'

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Pulse shooter Omar Mateen went to Disney Springs, and was near Epcot and Eve Orlando nightclub before opening fire on the Pulse nightclub June 12, 2016, a new motion filed Monday by his widow's defense team shows.

The motion was filed during the third day of jury selection for Mateen's wife Noor Salman, who is on trial for allegedly aiding and abetting a terrorist and obstruction of justice.

Mateen killed 49 people at Pulse nightclub and injured more than 50 others before he was shot and killed by police.

Salman's defense team filed the motion to show Mateen was not targeting Pulse because it was a gay nightclub, because the Eve nightclub is not dedicated to an LGBTQ audience, according to the document obtained by News 6.

Eve Orlando and Pulse are less than two miles and a five-minute drive apart.

With the motion, Salman's defense attorneys Linda Moreno and Charles Swift are trying to prevent the U.S. government from saying Mateen was targeting the LGBTQ community in their opening statements, which are expected to start next week.

Forensic data from Mateen's cellphone, security footage and Google Maps data shows that he left home at 5 p.m. and arrived in southern Orlando around 7:30 p.m.

Mateen's cellphone pinged near towers at Disney Springs at 10:27 p.m. and he was in the area of Epcot at 12:22 a.m., records show. Mateen then used his phone and Googled "downtown Orlando nightclubs" at 12:22 a.m., which pulled up Pulse and Eve Orlando, both on South Orange Avenue.

After getting on Interstate 4, Mateen was in the vicinity of Eve Orlando at 110 South Orange Ave. at 12:55 a.m., but began driving toward the SODO area just after 1 a.m.

At 1:33 a.m., GPS evidence shows Mateen was near Pulse nightclub. He then left and started back toward Eve Orlando, but turned around and was at Pulse where he opened fire just after 2 a.m.

Salman is accused of going on alleged scouting trips with Mateen to Pulse and Disney Springs days ahead of the mass shooting, but her lawyers say her phone's GPS never registered at either location.

"Location data does not place either of them in the vicinity of the Pulse nightclub at any time before
Mateen traveled there, alone, in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016," according to the motion. 

The defense team cited the U.S. attorney's own expert report, showing that although Mateen, Salman and their young son were in Orlando on June 8, cellphone, surveillance and GPS data does not show them going anywhere near Pulse.

This motion pokes holes in a key piece of evidence for the government's case against Salman: a signed statements that says she knew Mateen was going to carry out the shooting when he left their home June 11.

An FBI agent wrote down Salman's statement in her words June 12 during questioning. According to the statement, Salman told the agent Mateen was on the Pulse nightclub website the night he left for Orlando. However, the defense says there "is no evidence that any of Mateen or Salman’s devices ever accessed the Pulse nightclub website’s server."

In the motion, the defense is asking U.S. District Judge Paul Byron to prevent the government from suggesting in their opening statements that Mateen intentionally targeted the gay community, saying they do not have evidence to back up that claim.

Federal court continues Tuesday as both parties and Byron continue to question potential jury members from a pool of about 600. At least 60 possible jurors must be vetted and moved into the next round before a final panel of 12 plus alternates can be selected.

News 6 is in court everyday providing updates. Follow along on Twitter @News6PulseTrial and online at ClickOrlando.com/NoorSalmantrial.

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