A personal injury attorney representing some of the families and survivors of the Orlando nightclub massacre filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the gunman’s employer and wife, claiming they were able to stop Omar Mateen before the attack but didn’t. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court in South Florida on behalf of more than four dozen of the survivors and family members of those killed at Pulse nightclub last June. Forty-nine people were killed during the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history at the gay nightclub. Dozens more were injured. The lawsuit claims wrongful death, negligence and other counts.
Personal injury attorney Antonio Romanucci said Mateen’s employer, international security company G4S, knew he was mentally unstable yet allowed him to carry a gun in his job as a security guard. Mateen had a firearm license through his job, Romanucci told The Associated Press in an interview.
“Mateen gave out so many warnings that someone should have reined this guy in,” Romanucci said. “They should have said, ‘You are not stable. You shouldn’t have a weapon.'”
While working as a security guard at the St. Lucie County Courthouse, Mateen was investigated by the FBI in 2013 after he told co-workers he had connections to terrorists and a mass shooter. He later told his bosses he had made that up to get his co-workers to stop teasing him about being Muslim and the FBI determined he was not a threat. A spokeswoman for the security firm, Monica Lewman-Garcia, said she couldn’t comment without seeing the lawsuit. Romanucci said Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman, knew her husband was going to carry out the killings.
Salman currently is in jail awaiting trial. She has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of aiding and abetting, and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors have said Salman accompanied her husband when he cased locations for potential terrorist attacks and knew ahead of time that he was planning the attack.
“Rather than warn authorities, she kept it a secret and acted as his accomplice,” Romanucci said. Salman’s defense attorney in her criminal case did not respond to an email seeking comment. The most recent effort to hold an outside company liable for a mass shooting has failed, at least for the time being. A judge in Connecticut last fall dismissed a lawsuit brought against the manufacturer of the rifle used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre, saying a federal law shields gun manufacturers from most lawsuits over criminal use of their products. The Connecticut Supreme Court, though, has agreed to hear an appeal brought by the victims’ families.
The advantage of suing Mateen’s employer, rather than the firearms manufacturer or seller, is that the victims don’t have the obstacle of the federal law, said Sachin Pandya, a law professor at the University of Connecticut. But even if the plaintiffs can show Mateen’s employer should have taken some precautions, “you still have to show that what the employer failed to do caused the mass shooting,” Pandya said. This isn’t the first lawsuit to be filed by family members or victims of the Pulse massacre. Families of three patrons killed in the nightclub sued Facebook, Google and Twitter, claiming Mateen was radicalized through propaganda found through social media.
A fund that was formed after the massacre has distributed almost $30 million to the survivors and family members of victims.
UCLA law professor Adam Winkler said the plaintiffs are going to have to show that the security firm had a duty, failed in its duty and is responsible for what happened. With Salman, they are going to have to show that she was a co-conspirator or that her failure to report that her husband was dangerous led to the attack.
“This will be a very challenging lawsuit,” Winkler said. “Victims of gun violence are looking for second-best options and that is what this is.”
An Turkish official says a senior leftist militant, wanted by both Turkey and the United States, is believed to be in the Netherlands. Ankara is preparing to request her extradition. The militant, identified as Seher Demir Sen a leader of the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C is alleged to be behind a 2013 suicide bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, which killed a security guard. She is among three suspected DHKP-C leaders wanted by the United States.
A government official said Turkish security officials have determined that the insurgent has recently made her way to the Netherlands from Greece. The official said preparations were underway for a formal request for her extradition.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government protocol.
Can life develop in the most extreme conditions on Earth? Scientists from France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) are trying to find out. It has led the first scientific expedition into the Dallol salt dome in the Danakil Desert in Ethiopia. At 128 metres below sea level, the site sits on a two-kilometre-thick layer of salt, the remains of an evaporated arm of the Red Sea, under which lies an active magma chamber. “There is a very acidic pH and very high salinity around the dome,” says CNRS research director Purificaci n L pez-Garc a. “It’s 50 per cent salt, almost twice that of the Dead Sea.” Liquids can reach 118 C, and geysers spit toxic gas and hot springs bubble with acid.
The international team of microbiologists, geologists and crystallographers spent two weeks in January exploring the dome and its surroundings, hoping to find bacteria that can live in these extreme conditions. “We went last year and came back to get more samples from the dome, the underground salt lake, the black pond containing lots of magnesium chlorides,” says L pez-Garc a, 51. “We hardly recognised the place: sources get obturated by salt and other springs open next to them.”
The site was difficult to access. “We were not allowed to go there without military protection,” L pez-Garc a recalls. But the effort yielded results and the team collected samples for testing. Using electron microscopes and DNA sequencing, they observed samples with extremophilic micro-organisms: bacteria and archaea (domains of single-celled micro-organisms) that not only resist Dallol’s depredations, but even reproduce. “We found a variety of archaea that has no close neighbour,” says L pez-Garc a.
In the short term, culturing these extremely adaptable microbial organisms in the lab may help scientists explain why some species are able to grow in salt and acid. In the long term – there are still many samples left to collect and analyse – they could show why life on Earth started to develop.
Life – in the form of single-celled organisms – appeared on Earth around 3.8 billion years ago, during the Archean eon, as the Earth’s crust first began to poke out of the sea. In this hot, acidic and volcanic environment, geology prevailed over biology – much like it does in Dallol. “The very special environmental conditions of this site might resemble those of the early Earth,” says L pez-Garc a. “This is particularly true for the presence of high hydrothermal activity in a setting where life does not yet dominate, and possibly by the presence of organic compounds. In the case of Dallol, they are likely derived from buried sediments and mobilised by ascending hydrothermal fluids.” Dallol’s hellish conditions recreate the beginning of it all – and by analysing life’s ability to find a way, even here, the scientists hope to discover an answer to the biggest question of all.