The wife of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen has spoken out for the first time since she was acquitted of aiding and abetting her husband in his horrific terrorist attack that claimed the lives of 49 people at the gay event space.
Noor Salman, now 35, spent more than a year in jail after being accused of trying to cover for her husband in the wake of the attack. But while the mother-of-one maintains that she knew nothing about Mateen’s plans, she now admits that she ‘should have seen the red flags’ in his behavior during their five-year marriage – when she was routinely beaten and raped by him, even when pregnant.
In a wide-raging interview with Vice News, her first sit-down since she was released from jail in 2018, Salman also detailed the great lengths she has gone to cover up her connection to Mateen, who was shot dead by police at the scene of his attack, which left 49 dead and 53 injured.
The mother-of-one, who has a nine-year-old son with Mateen, maintains that she had no prior knowledge that her husband was planning the horrific terrorist attack – but says the widely-publicized accusations that she aided his heinous crimes have forced her to become a virtual recluse and left her unable to go outside for more than five minutes at a time, because people ‘assume she is a monster’.
Noor Salman, the wife of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, has spoken out for the first time since she was acquitted of aiding and abetting her terrorist husband’s heinous attack
‘It’s insurance that even if somebody were to recognize me, they would have doubt,’ she told Vice from her childhood home in Rodeo, California, where she is now living with her son Zakaryah and her mother. ‘[And] I would be gone by the time they figure it out.’
In order to protect herself and her son, Salman – who has changed her last name to conceal her true identity – also admits that she tells people her child was conceived during a one-night stand with a stranger, explaining: ‘It’s easier than to say… [his father] killed people and [I] became a single mom.’
However, she revealed that her son knows everything about his father’s terrorist attack, explaining that he watched news reports on the shooting and her trial while she was behind bars.
Killer: Mateen killed 49 people and left 53 injured when he opened fire in the gay nightclub in June 2016. He was killed at the scene by officers
Salman says both she and her son were subjected to abuse at the hands of Mateen, who she met on a website called Arab Lounge in 2011.
‘He was the sweetest when we first met,’ she recalled. ‘After I got pregnant, the script flipped.’
Salman says her husband’s unpredictable behavior and furious temper left her feeling as though she was ‘on eggshells every day’, revealing that he regularly beat and raped her during their five-year marriage, including while she was pregnant with their son.
Recalling one incident when her husband ‘took a knife’ out and cut up one of their son’s toys – a pig – when the little boy was just two years old, she said that she tried to defend her child, only for Mateen to slap her for speaking up. Salman says her husband also threatened to kill her if she dared to leave him.
According to a Danger Assessment that Salman filled out while in jail, she was deemed to be at the ‘highest level of danger possible of being seriously injured or killed by her partner’.
Her fear of his attacks, she says, ensured that she stayed silent – and not even her closest family members knew about the true nature of her marriage.
Despite a jury finding her not guilty of helping her husband, Salman, now 35, says people still see her as a ‘monster’ and said the ordeal has turned her into a virtual recluse
However the mother admits that she should have ‘seen red flags’ in her husband’s behavior – revealing to Vice that he repeatedly beat and raped her during their five-year marriage
Ahead of her trial, Salman also stated in court documents filed by her legal team that Mateen was a serial cheater who slept with prostitutes and women off dating sights like Plenty of Fish.
Other court documents also revealed some of the abuse that Salman had faced at the hands of her husband – however her lead defense attorney Charles Swift told Vice that her legal team chose not to highlight it during the eight-day hearing because they wanted to ‘keep [her case] simple’ and feared it could ultimately do more harm than good.
Salman, pictured in an old social media photo, admitted that she tells people her son was conceived in a one-night stand with a stranger in order to avoid having to tell them the real story about his father’s identity
Salman was taken in for questioning by the FBI shortly after her husband had been identified as the Pulse shooter, and during an 11-hour questioning, she gave a verbal statement in which she said: ‘I’m sorry for what happened. I wish I would go back and tell police and his family what he was going to do.
‘I’m sorry I lied to the FBI, these are my own words.’
Police also said that Salman told them she saw Mateen researching Pulse on the internet two days before the attack and that when she asked him about it, he said it was a ‘target’.
One FBI agent then claimed that Salman told him she ‘knew an attack was close’ afterwards.
She also allegedly admitted to driving past Pulse with her husband on a scouting mission in the days before the attack and said she heard Mateen say ‘how upset people are going to be when it gets attacked.’
However, despite FBI agents insisting that these claims proved her guilt as far as the charges that she aided and abetted Mateen’s slaughter, Salman was not arrested at the time of her questioning – and she was not actually taken into custody until January 2017.
At her trial, the mother-of-one’s defense team claimed that she had only given these statements because she had been manipulated and mistreated during her interrogation. It was also revealed during the hearing that FBI agents had quickly determined that her claims about casing Pulse and seeing it on her husband’s computer were likely false.
Salman now admits that she gave her original statement out of desperation, telling Vice that she simply wanted to end the interrogation – during which she says she asked repeatedly to take a lie detector test.
The mother-of-one gave a statement to the FBI in the hours after her husband’s attack in June 2016, but she was not arrested until the following January
She added that she was so stunned by the news of her husband’s horrendous crime and his subsequent death that it didn’t even occur to her that she would need a lawyer during the interrogation, admitting that it was in fact ‘the last thing’ she was thinking about at the time.
Salman’s trial ended on March 30, 2018, when a unanimous jury vote found her not guilty of all charges – however, more than three years later, she says many people still refuse to associate themselves with her and ‘assume she didn’t care or that she supported [Mateen]’.
She has not had a job since she was freed from jail in Florida and relocated to her home state of California in the hopes of escaping her association with her late husband’s massacre.
Salman now lives in her childhood home with her nine-year-old son and her mother, and she survives on a $1,000-a-month check from Mateen’s Social Security survivor benefits, which her son will continue to receive until he turns 18.
Because her mother owns her home, Salman does not have to worry about paying rent – although she said that she has recently started looking for work for the first time since getting out of prison.
She also admitted that she occasionally receives handouts from her friends, including one of her former defense attorneys, Fritz Scheller, who Vice reports has become ‘a confidant of sorts’ in the years since her trial.
Although Salman did not go into great detail about her feelings towards her late husband, she briefly detailed the anger that she feels towards him for doing such an ‘evil thing’ and leaving her alone to raise their son as a single mother.
‘You did something so selfish, so evil, and you stuck me with your child,’ she said of Mateen. ‘Now I have to figure out how we’ll survive.’
The mother-of-one also revealed to Vice that she is undergoing therapy, during which she is attempting to deal with her guilt at failing to see the ‘red flags’ in her marriage that might have helped to prevent Mateen’s attack.
Having spent years refusing to leave her home without a disguise, Salman is also now working up the courage to show her face in public – admitting that she knows she needs to overcome her fear before her son gets much older.