Wife of Pulse Nightclub shooter arrested in the Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO - RODEO, Calif. (KTVU) -- The wife of the Orlando nightclub shooter, who was extensively questioned by federal agents in the days after the massacre, was arrested Monday by the FBI on in connection with the attack, authorities said.
Noor Salman was taken into custody Monday morning in the San Francisco Bay area and is facing charges in Florida including obstruction of justice. A Twitter post from the United States attorney's office in Orlando said Salman will make her initial court appearance Tuesday morning in Oakland, California.
Salman, 30, was arrested in Rodeo, where she reportedly lives. She was arrested on suspicion of tampering with a witness and is being held at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, according to Alameda County jail records. She is expected to appear in federal court in Oakland at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, FBI officials said.
Charges were filed by FBI officials at the Tampa-based Middle District of Florida office, FBI officials said.
Salman moved to California after her husband, Omar Mateen, was killed in a shootout with SWAT team members during the June 12 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
FBI agents repeatedly questioned Salman in the aftermath of the shooting about whether she had advance knowledge of her husband's plans. Salman told The New York Times in an interview published last fall that she knew her husband had watched jihadist videos but that she was "unaware of everything" regarding his intent to shoot up the club. She also said he had physically abused her.
"Noor Salman had no foreknowledge nor could she predict what Omar Mateen intended to do that tragic night," her attorney, Linda Moreno, said in a statement.
"Noor has told her story of abuse at his hands. We believe it is misguided and wrong to prosecute her and that it dishonors the memories of the victims to punish an innocent person," Moreno said.
"They're a very private family (and) all their blinds are closed all the time and windows shut," neighbor Glauber Franchi told KTVU outside his Rodeo home.
Salman had returned to Contra Costa County and has been living in her family home with her young son, her mother and her younger sister. She was taken into custody in the Donald Drive home Monday morning and transported to the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.
News of her arrest stunned residents in the neighborhood.
"Well I heard before, she had nothing to do with it," Franchi said. "Now she got arrested, so it's kind of weird. Overnight, things can change."
Mateen was the only shooter, and by the time a three-hour standoff with law enforcement had ended, 49 patrons were killed and another 53 people required hospitalization.
Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a 911 call to emergency officials during the standoff. He also made a series of Facebook posts and searches before and during the attack.
Salman, who grew up northeast of San Francisco, wed Mateen in 2011 after the two met online. They lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, at the time of the shooting. Last month, Salman filed a petition in a California court to change the name of the son she had with Mateen.
"We said from the beginning, we were going to look at every aspect of this, of every aspect of this shooter's life to determine not just why did he take these actions -- but who else knew about them? Was anyone else involved?" Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in an MSNBC interview on Monday.
The Times first reported on the arrest.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said in a statement that Salman was facing accusations of obstruction of justice and "aiding and abetting by providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization."
"Nothing can erase the pain we all feel about the senseless and brutal murders of 49 of our neighbors, friends, family members and loved ones," Mina said. "But today, there is some relief in knowing that someone will be held accountable for that horrific crime."
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he hoped the arrest "provides some comfort to the families who are mourning their loved ones," he added.
Neighbors say they rarely, if ever, saw Noor Salman or the son she had with Mateen.
"She may have had some thoughts about this, and if she had said something ahead of time, it might have saved some lives," neighbor Cathy Lawrence said. "She may not know anything, and I hope that's the case."
The Orlando police chief released a statement about Salman's arrest, saying: "I am glad to see that Omar Mateen's wife has been charged with aiding and abetting her husband in the commission of the brutal attack on the Pulse nightclub," Chief John Mina said in the statement.
"Nothing can erase the pain we all feel about the senseless and brutal murders of 49 of our neighbors, friends, family members and loved ones. But today, there is some relief in knowing that someone will be held accountable for that horrific crime," Mina said.
"I wish this was something nicer happening here, but it isn't," Rodeo resident Dan Pacheco said, adding that the new notoreity attached to his neighborhood was a bit unnerving.
"It's Rodeo, a small town, so why, in this whole world, does it have to land right here? It's weird, it's a shame."
KTVU reporter Debora Villalon and the Associated Press contributed to this report.