Federal prosecutors charged Salman with obstruction of justice and providing material support to a foreign terrorism organization in connection with the June 12, 2016, shooting that left 49 people dead and 53 others injured. Salman’s trial began earlier this month at a federal courthouse in downtown Orlando that is roughly two miles from the Pulse nightclub.
The Orlando Sentinel reported Salman was crying after the jury reached its verdict. The newspaper also noted Barbara Poma, owner of the Pulse nightclub, and several of the victims’ relatives did not speak when they left the courtroom after Salman was acquitted.
“I respect the criminal justice process, and we all have to trust that the jury made its decision free of bias and emotion,” wrote Poma on her Facebook page. “Those of us directly affected by this tragedy must find peace in our hearts and remember that he (the gunman) was the one who pulled the trigger that night. He was the perpetrator, and he should not have one more minute of power over our lives.”
The massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history until a gunman on Oct. 1, 2017, killed 58 people and injured nearly 500 others during a country music festival in Las Vegas.
Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the Pulse nightclub massacre who is vice president of the Dru Project, a gun control advocacy group, is among the hundreds of thousands of people who participated in the “March for Our Lives” that took place in D.C. on March 24.
“I have not been watching the trial,” he wrote on his Facebook page after the jury acquitted Salman. “I am not personally invested in the outcome, but I know this: True justice, in my eyes, comes from creating a world our 49 angels would be proud of. A world where we are celebrating life, not running from bullets.”
“I love you all,” added Wolf. “Stay strong. We do it for them.”
Poma in her Facebook post said the verdict “cannot and will not divide us.”
“The survivors, families, and first responders as well as the community of Orlando and everyone around the world must now focus on the work ahead of us,” she wrote. “We will always carry the pain of what happened at Pulse, and we will never forget those who were taken. We will wrap our arms around all affected today and in the days to come.”
“It will be difficult, but we will focus now on healing, and we will continue to work to help communities emerge from violence and hate,” added Poma. “It is as important today as it was 21 months ago.”