Noor Zahi Salman, the widow of the man who murdered 49 people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June, grew up in the East Bay, in Rodeo. As CBS 5 reports, she is living here in the Bay Area again with the couple's four-year-old son, having moved back here to be with family sometime after the shooting, and she recently filed a petition in Contra Costa County court to legally change the name of her son. According to the filing, the boy has his father's last name, and Omar as a middle name.
The petition was filed Wednesday, and a hearing is now scheduled for February and guaranteed to draw prying eyes from the media.
And that is something Ms. Salman, 30, does not want, though she gave her first interview to the New York Times in early November. In that interview she declined to say where she was living and asked that the paper not disclose it. She said, despite earlier suggestions by the FBI that she could be implicated as an accomplice in the Orlando shooting, she was "unaware of everything," making the case that she was a battered wife simply trying to survive, and that her husband kept many things from her. "I don’t condone what he has done," she told the Times. "I am very sorry for what has happened. He has hurt a lot of people."
Though her lawyers would not let her discuss what had transpired in her talks with the FBI, she said she was giving the interview because "I just want people to know that I am human. I am a mother." She also became tearful recounting the last texts she received from Mateen, during the three-hour standoff he had with a SWAT team following the shooting, when he asked her if she had seen the news. "How can someone be capable of that?"
There remains some question, though, whether Salman is using stories of domestic violence to help clear herself of the potential taint of wrongdoing. Her lawyers enlisted a domestic violence expert, Jacquelyn Campbell, who is a nurse and professor at Johns Hopkins University, to review Salman's case, who says that it's very likely Salman had no awareness of her husband's violent plans.
But Salman has admitted to knowing that Mateen watched jihadist videos online, and to driving him to buy ammunition at a Walmart though she says that was a routine errand because he was a security guard who went to a shooting range. She and their son accompanied him on a trip to Disney World, though it is unclear whether Mateen may have considered the amusement park for a target.
Says Mia Bloom, a Georgia State University professor who has studied the role of women in terrorist groups, speaking to the Times, "It’s possible she didn’t know because he was not confiding in her, but she does have every incentive in the world to retell this story as a different kind of victim." Bloom adds, "I am not trying to minimize the experience she had in a domestic abusive relationship, but it doesn’t give her a free pass as a bystander to not come forward."
So far it appears, though, that the FBI has not charged Salman with any crime.