FORT PIERCE, Fla. (CN) – Victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando filed a federal complaint in Florida, accusing the shooter’s wife and his employer of standing by idly as he showed ever more alarming signs that he was planning a terrorist attack.
Though Omar Mateen appeared unhinged and preoccupied with violent thoughts, G4S Secure Solutions kept him employed as a security officer and did nothing to revoke his professional license to carry firearms, the lawsuit in the Southern District of Florida alleges.
Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman, who is facing criminal charges for aiding and abetting Mateen, accompanied him on trips to “scout out” the Orlando club and purchase ammunition, the lawsuit alleges. She never reported Mateen to police despite knowing he had been watching Muslim extremist recruiting videos and was plotting terrorist activity, according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs, including several surviving victims and seven estates of those fatally wounded in the massacre, filed the lawsuit in Florida federal court early Wednesday. They list counts for negligent hiring and retention on the part of G4S PLC and G4S Secure Solutions, and civil conspiracy on the part of Salman. Claims for wrongful death are included against both Salman and the G4S defendants.
Mateen’s June 2016 rampage at the Orlando gay club left forty-nine victims dead and more than fifty others wounded. It is widely considered to be the worst single-shooter massacre in modern U.S. history.
Mateen, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State during the attack, was shot and killed in a standoff with police.
According to the lawsuit, there were obvious signs, dating back nearly a decade, that Mateen was too unstable to carry firearms, and was unfit for employment as an armed security guard.
The lawsuit cites a 2007 incident in which Mateen purportedly made a comment about bringing a gun to class while attending a corrections officer training academy. As was previously reported by Courthouse News, Mateen was expelled from the academy, with a local warden calling his comments “at best extremely disturbing.”
G4S hired Mateen in 2007 and allowed him to secure a Class G firearms license for professional use, in spite of his unsettling dismissal from the prison guard academy, according to the lawsuit.
The company informed the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (a Florida agency in charge of issuing gun licenses) that Mateen’s employment-screening psychological assessment was completed by a Dr. Carol Nudelman. However, in a public statement following the shooting, Nudelman denied ever evaluating Mateen and said that she was not even working with G4S in Florida at the time the assessment was supposedly executed.
Nudelman called Mateen’s psychiatric evaluation a “false document,” according to the lawsuit.
G4S has since conceded that Nudelman was not involved in the Mateen assessment, and that her name appeared on it due to a “clerical error.” The State of Florida in late 2016 fined G4S for falsely listing Nudelman’s name on more than 1,500 forms over a ten-year period, the lawsuit notes.
Aside from botching Mateen’s employment screening, the lawsuit claims, G4S failed to take action when Mateen’s disturbing behavior continued in the course of his job.
While working for G4S at a St. Lucie County courthouse in 2013, he allegedly boasted of family ties to Al-Qaeda and claimed he was hoping police would raid his home so he could die as a martyr. According to the lawsuit, his coworkers also indicated he had praised Nidal Hasan, the Army major who carried out a terrorist attack on Fort Hood in Texas.
A courthouse supervisor asked G4S to remove Mateen from his post, and Mateen’s behavior was reported to the FBI. Agents from the bureau interviewed him twice, but no punitive action was taken, and he consequently maintained a clean background-check record, along with his license to wield firearms.
After Mateen was transferred away from the courthouse, his new coworker Daniel Gilroy, a former police officer, witnessed Mateen going on racist tirades and ranting about killing people, the lawsuit states, citing media reports that surfaced after the Orlando shooting.
“Mateen’s behavior was sufficiently threatening for Gilroy to make repeated requests that G4S transfer Gilroy to a new position. When G4S Defendants refused to do so, Gilroy left his position with G4S rather than continue to work alongside Mateen,” the lawsuit reads.
Despite all Mateen’s alarming conduct, G4S, one of the largest security firms in the country, did not fire him, nor did it recommend to the State of Florida that his Class G firearms license be revoked, the lawsuit alleges.
“Due to Mateen’s repeated threats, G4S Defendants knew or should have known Mateen was likely to cause bodily harm to others if not controlled,” the lawsuit alleges.
The head of the St. Lucie Shooting Center, where Mateen purchased the two guns believed to have been used in the massacre, has cited Mateen’s security licensure as the reason Mateen was able to buy the weapons, according to the lawsuit.
G4S released a statement in response to the shooting, saying that “Mateen was subject to detailed company screening when he was recruited in 2007 and re-screened in 2013 with no adverse findings.”
“He was also subject to checks by a U.S. law enforcement agency with no findings reported to G4S,” the statement reads. “G4S has no record of any complaint by Mr. Gilroy about Mr. Mateen.”
As for Noor Salman, she is in federal custody on criminal charges for alleged obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting Mateen’s support for the Islamic State. A Florida federal judge recently granted prosecutors’ motion to revoke a California court’s order to release her.
The victims’ lawsuit holds Salman liable for allegedly “assisting Mateen in purchasing firearms and ammunition” and helping him conduct “surveillance” of the Pulse nightclub.
Less than one week before the attack, the lawsuit claims, Mateen asked Salman what would “make people more upset,” an attack on Disney or a nightclub.
“The day prior to the attack, Salman witnessed Mateen storm out of the house carrying a bag including an assault weapon and ammunition, portending what would ultimately follow,” the lawsuit alleges.
“[She] told federal officials that she had known her husband had wanted to carry out a large-scale attack of violence involving the use of weapons against members of the public months, weeks, and/or days before the Pulse nightclub shootings,” the complaint states.
In an interview with the New York Times, Salman reportedly denied knowing that Mateen was going to carry out the attack.
“I was unaware of everything,” she reportedly said. “I don’t condone what he has done. I am very sorry for what has happened.”
She told The New York Times that Mateen was once a “gentle spirit,” but that soon after they were married, he became violent and abusive.
Her attorney released a statement on the heels of her arrest, saying, “We believe it is misguided and wrong to prosecute her and that it dishonors the memories of the victims to punish an innocent person.”