In June, 2016 Omar Mateen walked into the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and opened fire. Forty-nine people were killed and 53 others were wounded in the attack.
Now, some of the survivors of the attack are suing Mateen’s employer and his wife, saying that they had the knowledge to stop the attack. The lawsuit alleges that both Mateen’s employer and his wife knew about Mateen’s views regarding violence and his comments about terrorism.
The lawsuit also specifically alleges that Mateen’s wife Noor Salman provided material aid to the commission of these crime by purchasing ammunition that was used in the attack. This accusation follows from a federal case that was brought against Salman in January.
In my humble, non-legally-binding opinion, I believe that the plaintiffs in this civil suit may have a strong case against Salman if they can prove that she aided in this terrorist plot by purchasing the tools needed for Mateen to carry out his plot.
What will be more difficult for the plaintiffs to prove, however, is that Mateen’s wife or his employer should have known that he would have committed this terrorist attack based on what he said or the things he believed.
Sure, it may have been a red-flag, but does that mean that they can reasonably assume what his thoughts or beliefs would lead to? I do not think so. So can we hold them legally and financially responsible for their perceived inaction? Also probably not. But should we be able to? Maybe.
In the March 3 edition of the East Tennessean, I wrote about our social contracts and how we must have discussions and negotiations about what we want from society. I believe that this is another one of those cases. Should we be responsible for the actions of others when we have a suspicion of a crime and we do not report it? This is a discussion that we must have to determine the parameters and the punishments for violating this social agreement.
Many states do have mandatory reporting laws already. But usually these laws are very specific as they only apply to certain crimes, for instance child abuse, and only to specific groups, such as teachers or doctors. The question we must decide is whether or not people can be held responsible for their knowledge of a future crime that may or may not occur.