The FBI arrested the wife of Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen on Monday, charging her with serious federal crimes in connection with the attack, authorities said.
Noor Salman was arrested at a residence in Rodeo, Calif., outside of San Francisco, on charges of obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting by providing material support to a terrorist organization, according to federal authorities and Orlando Police Chief John Mina. She is scheduled to appear in federal court in Oakland at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, though the charges were filed in the Middle District of Florida, authorities said.
Attorneys for Salman did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. Officials did not immediately release documents detailing what evidence they have that Salman committed the federal crimes of which she is charged.
Salman, 30, had been under FBI scrutiny since Mateen’s shooting rampage left 49 people dead inside the nightclub, an attack that was inspired by the Islamic State. He was then fatally shot by police. Salman is the only person to face charges in the case.
“It was always our goal, and we said from the beginning, we were going to look at every aspect of this case, at 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, is there any other accountability that needs to be had here in this case,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Monday on MSBNC.
A law enforcement official had previously told The Washington Post that Salman was with her husband on at least one trip to the club before the attack, and that she at one point went with him to buy ammunition. The FBI had interviewed Salman extensively after the attack, trying to determine what, if anything, she knew about his intentions.
Mina said in a statement that he was glad to see that Salman had been charged with aiding her husband, as it brought “some relief in knowing that someone will be held accountable for that horrific crime.”
“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,” said Mina, whose officers responded to the attack.
In an interview with the New York Times, which first reported the arrest, Salman denied any involvement or knowledge of what her husband was going to do. She said her husband beat her and lived his life in secret.
Salman told the Times that she did not view her husband’s buying ammunition as suspicious, and she had no idea he was checking out Pulse when she drove with him to Orlando.
“I was unaware of everything,” she told the Times. “I don’t condone what he has done. I am very sorry for what has happened. He has hurt a lot of people.”
Authorities have said previously that Mateen, 29, seemed to have been radicalized online, and that the FBI had investigated him for 10 months beginning in 2013 after he talked at work about his connections with al-Qaeda and dying a martyr. Authorities ultimately concluded that he had no actual connections, and they closed their probe of Mateen — which included putting him under surveillance and recording his calls — with no charges.
FBI Director James B. Comey has said the bureau would scrutinize its earlier interactions with Mateen, but an early review found that agents could not have done anything differently.
During his rampage at Pulse, Mateen called police and professed allegiance to the Islamic State during a series of talks with dispatchers and negotiators. Law enforcement officials have faced criticism for not moving quickly enough to confront him, particularly after he holed up with hostages inside a bathroom in the club.
Before the attack, Salman, Mateen’s second wife, had been living with her husband in Fort Piece, Fla., though she had family in Rodeo and was believed to have been staying there more recently. Those who knew her described her as friendly, outgoing and stylish. She and Mateen had a young son.
In her interview with the Times, Salman said that when her husband told her he would not be home for dinner the afternoon before the attack, she asked him not to go. But Mateen left anyway, by Salman’s account, saying he had to go see a friend.
Salman told the Times that she tried to call her husband on the morning of the attack, and he sent her a text asking if she had seen what happened. When she responded she had not, according to the Times, he wrote back, “I love you babe.” That was their last contact.
In recent mass shootings, federal authorities have moved aggressively to charge those with connections to the incidents or even just to those involved.
Joey Meek, friend of the man accused of killing nine black church members in a mass shooting in Charleston, S.C., pleaded guilty in April to lying to the FBI and concealing his knowledge of the crimes. Dylann Roof, who was convicted of killing nine people in that case and has been sentenced to death, had stayed with Meek and his relatives, and Meek told The Washington Post in a previous interview that Roof had spoken of going to the church and doing “something crazy.”
Federal authorities charged Enrique Marquez Jr., who bought the assault rifles used in the San Bernardino terrorist attack that killed 14 people, with conspiring to carry out two other attacks in 2012. And they arrested three people tied to one of the San Bernardino attackers on charges of marriage fraud, conspiracy and lying under oath.