Noor Zahi Salman, the 30-year-old widow of Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, was arrested Monday morning at the home where she's been living with family in the Bay Area, and will be making her first appearance in federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday. As the New York Times reports, the extent of the charges against Salman have not been revealed, but a source tells the paper that she has at least been charged with obstruction of justice in connection with the June 12, 2016 mass shooting that claimed the lives of 49 people and injured 53 others. It is considered the worst mass shooting in US history.
Prosecutors have been trying to determine ever since how much Salman knew of her husband's plans, and whether she aided and abetted them. And it looks as though the interview Salman gave to the Times in November was as much to clear her name in federal prosecutors' eyes as in the eyes of the public. In that interview, she and her own hired domestic abuse expert made the case for the fact that as an abused wife, she was simply trying to survive herself and protect her three-year-old son, and she was "unaware of everything" when it came to Mateen's intention to commit mass murder.
That runs contrary to statements she gave to investigators shortly after the shooting, as CBS News reported, in which she allegedly said she tried to stop her husband from committing the attack.
We know that in the hours after the attack took place, while Mateen was still barricaded inside club, he posted to Facebook and texted his wife to ask if she had seen the news. We also know that Mateen was in the vicinity of the nightclub for several hours that Saturday night before he finally stormed the entrance and began shooting and the implication has been that he could have been in contact with Salman then as well.
Salman accompanied Mateen, along with their son, on trips to Disney World twice, in both April and June of last year, and investigators believe both trips happened so that Mateen could case the amusement park for a potential attack. Salman also admitted she had driven to Pulse nightclub with Mateen, and had driven him to purchase ammunition at a Walmart something she would later say in the Times interview was simply a routine errand because her husband carried a weapon as a security guard, went to a shooting range, and the ammunition was cheapest at Walmart. She says she knew her husband watched ISIS videos on YouTube and may have become radicalized over the year prior to the shooting, and investigators found many books on Islam in the apartment the couple shared in Fort Pierce, Florida.
Salman submitted to hours of interviews, as well as a polygraph examination, following the attack, and the FBI has been cagey about what they've discovered since, or what they might ultimately charge her with.
As we learned shortly after the tragedy, Salman grew up in the East Bay town of Rodeo where her family may still be residing, and she returned to live there after divorcing her first husband, staying until 2013, when she married Mateen. She returned again to live with family sometime after the shooting last year, and in December it came to light that she had filed a petition in Contra Costa County court to legally change the name of her son, who shares a last name with his father, and has his father's first name, Omar, as a middle name.
She said in the November Times interview, "I just want people to know that I am human. I am a mother."
Previously: Widow Of Orlando Nightclub Shooter Files Petition In East Bay Court To Change Son's Name
Orlando Shooter's Wife Grew Up In The East Bay, May Face Charges
As Many As 10,000 Attend Castro Rally, March To City Hall In Honor Of Orlando Shooting Victims