Noor Salman, whose husband, Omar Mateen, killed 49 people and wounded dozens in an Orlando nightclub that was popular with gays, was also charged with aiding and abetting by providing material support, the officials said.
She was taken into custody by F.B.I. agents at her home outside of San Francisco, where she had been living with her young son. Prosecutors had been weighing charges against her for months in the aftermath of the attack by her husband on June 12, 2016.
Investigators interviewed Ms. Salman for hours after the attack and came to believe she was not telling the truth about her husband’s plans to carry out the rampage.
She is expected to make an initial appearance on Tuesday at a federal court in Northern California.
The Justice Department’s decision to prosecute Ms. Salman, 30, ends part of the mystery that has surrounded her since the first days after the attack, when she became a central subject of the wide-ranging investigation into her husband.
In an interview last year with The New York Times, Ms. Salman said was “unaware of everything” in connection with the attack.
Ms. Salman said she had accompanied her husband to Orlando with their child once when he scouted the club but did not know the purpose of the trip. On the day her husband drove to Orlando, she claimed he said he was going to visit a friend, named Nemo, who lived in Florida. But Nemo was not living in Florida at the time, a fact Ms. Salman said she did not know.
She also said she had no reason to suspect that ammunition he bought in the days leading up to the attack was to be used in the shooting, given that her husband was a security guard who frequently purchased ammunition. On the day of the shooting, she bought her husband a Father’s Day card, expecting him to return that evening. Her lawyers believe that supports her story that she did not know about the attack.
During his rampage, Mr. Mateen used Facebook to pledge his allegiance to the Islamic State. President Obama has said that Mr. Mateen “took in extremist information and propaganda over the internet and became radicalized.”
Federal investigators do not believe that Mr. Mateen, who was 29, received any specific training or support from the Islamic State. Part of their inquiry has focused on whether anyone in the United States assisted in his plans for the attack.
There has perhaps been no figure more central to those questions than Ms. Salman, who grew up in an avocado-colored home in Rodeo, Calif., near San Francisco. In Rodeo, on a diverse block populated by Chinese, Indian, Korean and Mexican families, neighbors recalled a younger Ms. Salman as warm and kind.
Ms. Salman married Mr. Mateen in a ceremony near her childhood home in Northern California, a second marriage for both. After the wedding, Ms. Salman moved to Fort Pierce, Fla., where she and Mr. Mateen lived in a two-story condominium complex.
Their marriage in 2011 caused consternation among some of Ms. Salman’s relatives, mostly because of her Palestinian heritage and Mr. Mateen’s ancestral ties to Afghanistan. Ms. Salman said in the interview with The Times that her husband beat her repeatedly and verbally abused her.
Members of Mr. Mateen’s family, who have tried to shield Ms. Salman from public scrutiny, have said they believe she did nothing improper.
“She is shocked, that poor lady,” Seddique Mateen, Mr. Mateen’s father, said in June, 2016. “And she doesn’t know anything.”
In two recent mass shootings, prosecutors have brought charges against people with ties to the shooters.
In South Carolina, a friend of Dylann S. Roof, who was convicted of killing nine people on June 17, 2015, in a Charleston church, pleaded guilty in April to lying to federal investigators and misprision of a felony, or failing to inform authorities that a felony had been committed. The friend did not testify against Mr. Roof, who was sentenced to death last week.
In 2015, the federal authorities in California brought charges against a neighbor of the husband and wife who killed 14 people and wounded 22 others in San Bernardino. The man, who purchased the rifles used in the attack on Dec. 2, 2015, was accused of lying on forms filled out in connection with the purchase. Although he was also accused of planning a terrorist attack several years ago, the man was not charged with having a direct role in the San Bernardino rampage.
However, federal prosecutors in the summer of 2014 declined to prosecute Katherine Russell, the wife of one of the assailants in the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013. F.B.I. agents believed she had made false statements to investigators and concealed knowledge of a crime.
|© Jim Wilson Noor Salman, the wife of Omar Mateen.|
FBI arrests wife of Orlando nightclub massacre gunman Omar Mateen
The FBI on Monday arrested the wife of the gunman in the Pulse Nightclub massacre on charges connected to the shooting rampage, investigators confirmed to Fox News.
The June 2016 shooting, seen as the deadliest in modern U.S. history, killed 49 people and wounded dozens more. Police shot and killed gunman Omar Mateen after a three-hour standoff, during which he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terror group.
The charges against his wife, 30-year-old Noor Salman, included aiding and abetting his attempts to support ISIS, as well as obstruction of justice.
According to a source close to the investigation, the U.S. Attorney in Florida and attorneys within the Dept. of Justice, the agencies, which jointly prosecute terrorism cases, wanted to charge Salman with directly supporting ISIS, in addition to aiding the terror network through her husband. However, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord refused to support additional charges.
FBI agents from the bureau's San Francisco field office picked up Salman outside her home in Rodeo, Calif., law enforcement sources said. She did not resist the arrest.
In April 2016, Mateen and Salman took their 3-year-old son to Walt Disney World, but their behavior reportedly was alarming enough for Disney officials to have contacted the FBI to alert them that Mateen and Salman appeared to be scouting the theme park as a venue for a potential attack. The family went to another Disney property, Disney Springs, that June.
During the attack that began around 2:00 a.m. on June 12, Mateen placed 16 calls, an FBI source told FoxNews.com, and communicated by SMS, a texting service.
At least three calls were to 911 and one was to a local news service, during which he pledged his allegiance to ISIS and expressed support for the Boston Marathon bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
He texted Salman during his shooting rampage, made posts to his Facebook account proclaiming his allegiance to ISIS and pledging more attacks, and according to an FBI source, used the social media platform Snapchat to communicate with at least one other person.
Salman is set to make her initial appearance in federal court Tuesday in San Francisco. She had moved to Contra Costa County after the shooting.
The charges were filed in the Middle District of Florida - the jurisdiction in which the nightclub massacre took place. Following her initial appearance, the plan is to fly Salman back to the Middle District of Florida where she will continue through the judicial process.
The New York Times first reported Monday's arrest.
Salman claimed last November she had no clue about what her husband was planning, according to a Times interview. "I was unaware of everything."
She also said Mateen got increasingly violent as their marriage got rockier, even punching her in a fit of rage while she was pregnant, during a trip to buy baby clothes.
Her son, now 4, is partly named for his father. Salman filed a petition to change the boy's name last month.
The Justice Dept. released transcripts of Mateen's 911 calls after the shooting. In one call, he said, "Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic]. I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings."
"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," Orlando Police Chief John Mina responded.
One of the officers who responded to the massacre, Master Sgt. Debra Clayton, was shot and killed last week outside a Walmart in the city. Her suspected killer, Markeith Loyd, remained on the loose one week later.
Orlando shooting: Omar Mateen's widow arrested
Noor Salman, who was arrested Monday, did not know beforehand that her husband, Omar Marteen, would enter Pulse nightclub in Orlando last summer and commit the deadliest mass shooting in US history, her attorney said.
Federal authorities took custody of Salman at a home in the San Francisco area.
She faces federal charges, filed in the Middle District of Florida, including obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting Mateen's material support to ISIS, according to a law enforcement official.
The arrest was first reported by The New York Times.
Authorities believe Salman acted of her own free will and knowingly took steps to obstruct the investigation into the massacre, according to a law enforcement official.
The official said Salman's claims that she was coerced through her husband's abusive behavior did not stand up. Another official says the evidence will show that she was complicit and knew her husband was going to do something bad.
But family attorney Linda Moreno of Tampa, Florida, said Salman could not predict what her husband intended to do that June evening.
"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 in a statement.
Salman will have a court appearance on Tuesday in Oakland, according to Assistant US Attorney Abraham Simmons.
CNN's Dan Simon visited her family's home in Rodeo, California, for reaction and was told "no comment."
"I am glad to see that Omar Mateen's wife has been charged with aiding her husband in the commission of the brutal attack on the Pulse nightclub," said Orlando police Chief John Mina.
"Federal authorities have been working tirelessly on this case for more than seven months, and we are grateful that they have seen to it that some measure of justice will be served in this act of terror that has affected our community so deeply."
Salman, who married Mateen in 2011, came under increasing scrutiny as authorities investigated Mateen, who killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others when he opened fire at Pulse, a gay nightclub. The gunman was killed after barricading himself in a bathroom at the Orlando club.
A law enforcement official told CNN last year that authorities were looking into whether Salman should face charges.
Salman gave conflicting accounts about what she knew of Mateen's intentions in the hours before the attack, authorities said. Salman told the FBI her husband said he wanted to carry out a jihadist attack, though she denied knowledge of his plans, a law enforcement official told CNN last year.
Months before the attack, Mateen added the name of his wife to his life insurance policy and made sure she had access to his bank accounts, two law enforcement officials said. The gunman transferred his share of the home in which his sister and brother-in-law lived to them for just $10. Mateen also bought his wife an expensive piece of jewelry, the sources said.
Salman told investigators that in the weeks leading up to the attack, Mateen spent thousands of dollars, buying among other things the guns used in the massacre. In April, he visited Disney World with his wife, and Disney security officials believe he was conducting surveillance, a law enforcement official told CNN.
Two days before the attack, he left his house angry and was carrying a bag of guns. Salman begged her husband not to leave and grabbed him by the arm, she said.
Two hours after the attack started, Mateen texted his wife at 4 a.m. and asked her whether she heard the news about the shooting. At one point, Salman told Mateen that she loved him.
Mateen's ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, last year described a brief but violent relationship to a man whom she was only able to escape through her family's help. She said he was physically abusive and a steroid abuser.