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Details emerge about nightclub shooter’s wife

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    A gunman opened fire inside a crowded gay nightclub early Sunday, before dying in a gunfight with SWAT officers, police said. With news that Omar Mateen killed dozens of people in the gay nightclub in Florida and was born to Afghan immigrant parents, the Afghan-American community is expressing horror, sorrow and disbelief that one of their own could commit the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

RODEO, California >> She was a sweet, pretty California girl with Palestinian roots who left an arranged marriage only to find love with a man who committed the worst mass shooting in modern U.S history.

Little by little, details have begun to emerge about 30-year-old Noor Zahi Salman, who grew up in the small suburb of Rodeo, California, tucked in the dry hills near the oil refineries 25 miles northeast of San Francisco.

Her romance with Omar Mateen — security guard, bodybuilder and devout Muslim — began online, according to a neighbor, and they were married on Sept. 29, 2011, near her hometown, according to public records. The couple has a 3-year-old son.

Early Sunday, the 29-year-old Mateen opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, leaving 49 people dead and 53 wounded.

Authorities believe Mateen’s wife knew about the plot ahead of time, said an official who was briefed on the progress of the case but insisted on anonymity to discuss a continuing investigation. The official said investigators are reluctant to charge her only on the basis of possible advance knowledge of her husband’s plans.

Three people identifying themselves as FBI agents visited Salman’s childhood home in Rodeo on Tuesday and spoke with her mother, said Jessie Rojas, a next-door neighbor.

In Fort Pierce, Florida, where Salman and Mateen lived, Salman made a brief visit to their first-floor apartment late Monday, escorted by police and her brother-in-law. Her father-in-law said she came to retrieve clothing. She did not speak with reporters. She has otherwise been in seclusion.

According to marriage documents on file in the Contra Costa County Recorder’s office, Salman was born in the United States while her parents’ birthplaces were listed as “Palestine.”

It’s unclear when her parents, who served as witnesses for the wedding, came to the United States, but their naturalization papers allowing them to stay in the country were approved in 1984.

No one answered the door at the Salman home Tuesday, but neighbors who know the 2004 graduate of John Swett High School in nearby Crockett said they find it hard to believe she had anything to do with the massacre.

Jasbinder Chahal, who has lived across the street from Salman’s childhood home for the last 15 years, said Salman is “very nice…not the smartest, but she was beautiful.

“You know, some kids after high school, they open up the box and the world is theirs. She was inside the box, just pack it up and get married,” said Chahal.

“They had a small wedding and took lots of pictures here at the house,” said Chahal. The marriage license says the ceremony took place in Hercules, California, and that an imam officiated.

Of Mateen, Chahal said, “He was shorter than her and did not seem very friendly.”

Chahal said Salman’s mother, Ekbal Salman, was deeply upset when she visited her Monday night and said she feared for the safety of her daughter and grandson.

Growing up, Salman’s parents tried to shelter their four girls.

“Noor never played in the street, and the girls were never allowed to drive,” Chahal said.

The neighbor quoted Salman’s mother as saying Mateen also kept her daughter from driving, until he recently allowed her to take a test to get her drivers’ license.

Salman’s marriage to Mateen was her second, said Chahal. Mateen had previously been married as well.

Her first marriage had been arranged in the Palestinian Territories by her parents, said Chahal, adding that the union did not work out.

“He was in Chicago and they were living there, but they were not married long,” Chahal said. “They had cultural differences since she grew up here and was American.”

Mateen had met his first wife, Sitora Yusufiy, online, too. They married in 2009 after a whirlwind romance.

Yusufiy, who immigrated to the United States from Uzbekistan, has told reporters that Mateen was mentally unstable and abusive during their brief relationship.

She said she knew quickly that the marriage had been a mistake and she left him a few months later. The couple didn’t divorce, though, until June 21, 2011 — just three months before Mateen married Salman.

On one of her sister’s Facebook pages — next to a family photo — there is a box with the words: “Solidarity with Gaza.”

Salman rarely came home to visit after she married because Mateen would not let her, Chahal said. She quoted Salman’s mother telling her that Mateen even tried to keep the daughter from traveling home to see her father when he was sick.

The younger Salman managed to scrape together the money to visit before her father died in a local hospital, Chahal said.

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Associated Press writer Russ Bynum in Florida and AP researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

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The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at investigateap.org.

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  • Poor girl, we shouldn’t blame her for not saying a word about what her husband was about to do. So sad hearing her sheltered life and you cannot blame her for what she did not do

    • is that sarcasm? If you know someone is planning a mass shooting, and yet don’t do anything about it, you shouldn’t share some of the blame?

    • According to the admittedly hearsay report, Mateen abused and controlled her. So you are right, you cannot blame her for what she did not do.

    • Under a Trump the whole massacre would have never happened – all those Muslims and their offspring from trouble countries would have not been allowed in the country.

      • Bingo! As we read the shooter’s dad “hated” America as read on his online postings. Don’t tell me the Father’s comments did not rub off on his son. His son probably did this for Allah to prove to his father he was a true Musim/Islam follower. The immigrant parents harbor their hate for America and it comes to be thru their siblings! Just give it time like 20 years and we’ll see the shooters son mimic his dad being brought up knowing his dad was a Fanatic Muslim/Islam matyr. The son will be proud to follow in his father’s footsteps just wait and see.

        • These back-stabbing MidEasterners reminds me of the Japan history shows shown on KIKU tv. In the feudal war periods there will a lot of backstabbers, lying, etc. to survive or trying to win the battle. They’d change sides of the battle on a whim. And that’s until they got united by the Tokugawa and then overthrowing the regime to mimic the US Gov.

  • The guy was gay but couldn’t admit it. He hated that part of himself but blamed the other gay people. He called it jihad but in reality it had nothing to do with Islam.

    • It had everything to do with Islam. He thought per “wholy” Koran he was assured to go to heaven if he killed sinners and non-believers.

      • Let’s wait for more details. Now, it seems this guy was a closet gay. His dad was a staunch Muslim activist still involved in Afghan politcs and believed that gays should be punished. How conflicting is that? No excuses for his dilemma or actions but was this a real jihad against the U.S. – or was it the result of personal conflicts? Ask the countless folks with the same family problems living amongst us. Wait for more details.

    • I’m speculating that the shooter’s father commanded that his son become a martyr to repent for his sins and take out the other gays along with him otherwise his father would be greatly shamed and ousted by the Muslim community if word leaked out of his son being gay.

      • You are correct. In all religions, adherents to their faiths vary in the level of personal commitment to their faith. Some are nominal in their faith; others are devout. In Christianity for example, the more devout a person is, the more likely he/she will take Jesus’ admonition to love God and love one’s neighbor as oneself. In Islam, the more devout a person is, the more likely he/she will take the Quran’s verses encouraging violence seriously. The discrepancy is readily apparent. It is a good thing if a nominal Christian becomes devout as that person now exemplifies more love toward others. It is a bad thing if a nominal Muslim becomes more devout since that person is now potentially more violent toward others.

    • I don’t agree with what they do but to call them cowards is to vastly underestimate their determination and ability to accomplish what they set out to do. You can’t really call someone who confronts law enforcement a coward, no matter what you feel about their beliefs. Ex. You may hate Bin Laden but he was definitely not a coward.

    • That’s 72 virgins, and if they “martyr” themselves during the ramadan month they get extra special treatment. What that is I haven’t found out. Maybe they get some goats thrown in.

      • Ironically, the only virgins that might exist are 80 year old Catholic nuns 😉 Even if he gets all 72 of them, he can keep them all to himself! hahahaha

  • Get serious about going after family and friends that knew. No excuses. Charge them with conspiracy or whatever and then remove them from the US. If they survive all that hit them with wrongful death lawsuits.

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