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Sources: Grand jury to investigate Noor Salman, Orlando shooter’s widow

Posted at 5:49 PM, Jun 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-15 17:50:27-04

[Breaking news update, published at 5:38 p.m. ET]

A U.S. attorney plans to bring evidence before a federal grand jury to determine whether charges will be brought against Noor Salman, the widow of Orlando nightclub gunman Omar Mateen, according to two law enforcement officials.

The process could take some time, as investigators still need to finish collecting evidence and establishing a timeline for Mateen’s activities leading to Sunday’s attack, the officials said.

Noor Salman has told investigators that Mateen told her he had interest in carrying out a jihadist attack — but she denied knowing of any specific plans, a law enforcement official told CNN previously.

Salman has told investigators she was with her husband on at least one trip to buy ammunition, according to multiple law enforcement officials. When and where that was is unclear.

CNN has reported that Mateen picked up a Sig Sauer rifle on June 9, four days after he purchased it from the St. Lucie Shooting Center.

Records indicate that Mateen purchased ammunition from that store on June 9, according to a law enforcement official. The owner of the shop, Ed Henson, told CNN’s Christopher Lett that Mateen visited the store on multiple occasions but he never saw Salman.

[Original story, published at 4:01 p.m. ET]

As his victims lay bleeding to death at the Pulse gay nightclub, gunman Omar Mateen stopped to make several phone calls.

He called a friend to tell him goodbye, two law enforcement officials said. He also called 911 to pledge his allegiance to ISIS.

And he called CNN affiliate News 13 in Orlando to proclaim he was carrying out the massacre on behalf of the terror group.

Producer Matthew Gentili answered the newsroom phone early Sunday.

“I’m the shooter. It’s me. I am the shooter,” Mateen said, according to Gentili. “I did it for ISIS. I did it for the Islamic State.”

Both hate crime and terrorism

The latest revelations Wednesday came as authorities asked the public for any additional information about Mateen or the terror attack that killed 49 victims — the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

“This was an act of violence born out of hate that inflicted terror on an entire community,” FBI Special Agent Ron Hopper said. “I would call it a hate crime, I would call it terrorism. It’s both.”

The FBI has given intelligence bulletins to gay clubs in the Orlando area to give them a heightened sense of awareness, Hopper said. But he said there is no credible or specific threat of an imminent attack against Orlando or the United States. Hopper said there is no evidence to suggest Mateen planned to target any gay club other than Pulse.

Sources: Mateen visited gay chat rooms

In the months leading up to the carnage, Mateen visited gay chat rooms, messaged people on gay dating apps and even frequented the same gay nightclub he would eventually terrorize, sources said.

All this despite reports that Mateen made derogatory comments about gays and expressed outrage over the sight of two men kissing.

Investigators don’t know whether the gunman frequented Pulse and chat rooms for personal reasons or for surveillance. Hopper said he had no knowledge of Mateen patronizing any gay nightclubs other than Pulse.

FBI agents are interviewing people who claim they met the gunman on gay dating apps, a law enforcement official said.

Those claims “certainly change the perspective,” the source said.

No men have publicly come forward claiming to have had sexual contact with him.

Trouble with evidence

The gunman’s cell phone was damaged after it was submerged in water and blood, law enforcement officials said.

SWAT officers had severed a water main while tearing down a wall to rescue hostages, officials said.

But investigators have managed to obtain significant amounts of data from service providers, including email, authorities said.

Possible motives explored

Was the mass shooting fueled by homophobia? Was the gunman struggling with his own sexuality? Or was he really inspired by ISIS, as his final phone calls suggest?

An analysis of Mateen’s electronic devices showed searches for jihadist propaganda, including videos of ISIS beheadings, an official said.

But Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, said his son didn’t have ties to the terror gruop — which he calls “the enemy of humanity.”

He also said he didn’t believe his son was gay.

“I don’t know if he was, if that was his way of his life, but I don’t believe so,” Seddique Mateen said. He said his son was married with a child.

Yet the gunman’s first wife, Sitora Yusufiy, said she was not sure about his sexuality.

“It doesn’t surprise me that he might be gay. And it doesn’t surprise me that he was leading two totally different lives and was in such deep conflict within himself,” she told CNN.

“I hope people can truly understand that this is one insane person that did such a tragic thing.”

Source: Gunman scouted Disney sites

In the days leading up to the massacre, Mateen appeared to be conducting surveillance at both Pulse and at Disney properties.

Investigators believe he made surveillance trips to the club and the Disney Springs shopping complex during Gay Days 2016, a citywide celebration, a law enforcement official said.

Walt Disney World and other Orlando locations held Gay Days events from May 31 to June 6.

Disney security officials told the FBI they believe he also visited Disney World on April 26 to conduct surveillance, the law enforcement official said. That time, his second wife was with him. And now she’s under scrutiny by investigators.

Wife accompanied Mateen twice

The gunman’s second wife and widow, Noor Salman, told the FBI that Mateen said he had wanted to carry out a jihadist attack — but she denied knowing of any specific plans.

She went with her husband to two locations, a law enforcement official said. It’s unclear how much she knew about his intentions.

More than a month after the Disney World trip in April, Mateen and his wife visited Pulse and Disney Springs — apparently to scout out the locations, a law enforcement official said.

Investigators are trying to determine whether Salman should face charges for not reporting what she knew, a source said.

Salman told the FBI she noticed changes in her husband’s behavior and tried to dissuade him from doing anything violent, the official said.

The couple lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, about an hour from the Pulse club. When Mateen left their home Saturday, hours before the shooting, he lied about where he was going, his wife told investigators.