Wife of Pulse shooter present at preparations for attack, but unaware, attorney argues

OAKLAND, Calif. — The wife of Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen admits she was there when he drove by the club on a scouting mission and was with him at Walmart when he purchased ammunition, a motion filed Tuesday in California federal court said.

She did not know the true reason for the visits, though, her attorneys argued in the court filing.

Pledging allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist organization, Mateen went into Pulse nightclub in the early morning of June 12 and opened fire, killing 49 and injuring 53 others.

Salman is accused of obstructing justice and attempted provision of material support to a terrorist organization.

Tuesday’s court filing is asking for Salman to be released on bond from the Alameda County Jail pending her trial and/or extradition to Florida.

Salman was with Mateen when he drove by Pulse, a popular gay club, on a “purported scouting trip,” but media reports mischaracterized what happened, the court filing said.

“The defense proffers that the evidence will show that the purported scouting trip occurred while the family was on their way home from babysitting the children of a relative, that Mateen chose to drive into Orlando and to pass by the Pulse nightclub, and that Noor, who did not possess a driver’s license at the time, was, at most, a reluctant passenger who wanted to go home,” the motion said.

Likewise, Salman admits that she was with Mateen when he went to a local Walmart to buy ammunition which would later be used in the attack, the court filing said.

She believed they were at the store getting copies of their condo keys made and buying a toy for their young son, her attorneys argued.

When she saw Mateen in the sporting goods section purchasing ammunition, he told her he needed it to train for his job as a security guard, the filing said.

“Although Noor may have been present when Mateen was possibly making preparations (for the Pulse attack), mere presence alone is insufficient to establish (the charge of) aiding and abetting,” the motion said.

The months leading up to the Pulse massacre

Mateen and Salman met on an online dating site in 2011 and after a brief courtship they married, court records say.

It was Salman’s second marriage – she had been wed when she was 19 in an arranged marriage to a man from her father’s hometown in Palestine.

After several years of control and abuse, that marriage ended in divorce in 2009, Salman’s attorneys said.

Her marriage to Mateen was not much different, court documents claim.

“About six months into the marriage, and while she was pregnant, Mateen’s behavior toward Noor became violent and abusive,” court documents say. “He threatened to kill her if she left and that he would take custody of her son.”

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Photos: Courtroom sketches of Noor Salman

Mateen started abusing steroids, which made him even more unpredictable, her attorneys said.

“Faced with an abusive husband who was rapidly succumbing to steroid abuse, Noor dedicated herself to her son,” a Tuesday court filing said.

Salman said she knew her husband had been interviewed by the FBI before about alleged terrorist ties and that she saw him “watching violent videos, from what appeared to be the Middle East, online,” the filing said.

“(But) when Noor attempted to question Mateen about his activities, he threatened her that she should stay out of his business,” court records said.

Weeks leading up to the Pulse massacre

In the weeks immediately preceding the Pulse attack, Mateen’s mood changed drastically for the better, court documents say.

“For the first time in the couple’s marriage, he agreed to take a family trip to California so that Noor could visit her mother and family,” a motion filed Tuesday said. “He allowed her to get a driver’s license. He also purchased an engagement ring and earrings.

“He provided her with $500 in spending money with which she could purchase gifts for her family and clothes for herself.”

Before that, Mateen had given Salman an allowance of about $20 a week, court documents said.

His improved mood turned out to have a more sinister source as the night of June 11 approached, her attorneys said.

The day before the Pulse massacre

The night before the shooting, Mateen told Salman he was going out to see a friend.

“Noor asked him to stay because she hoped that they could spend the evening together as a family,” her attorneys said. “After Mateen left, Noor took her son out to Appleby’s for dinner and bought a shirt and Father’s Day card for Mateen for Father’s Day, which was the following weekend,” Tuesday’s court filing said.

Afterward, the two went home and went to bed.

In the middle of the night, Salman was startled awake by a phone call from her mother-in-law, who said Mateen had promised to stop by her house for Ramadan but never showed up, Salman’s attorneys said.

When Salman tried to call him, Mateen did not answer.

“So she texted him, ‘Where are you?’ to which he responded, ‘Do you see what’s happening?’ She responded, ‘No.’ to which he responded, ‘I love you, babe,’" Tuesday’s court filing said. “That was the last communication she had with Mateen,”

Friends and family speak out

In asking Salman be given bond, both her mother and uncle offered to put up their homes as collateral for her release.

Salman’s aunt, Emtiyaz Adieh, gave a detailed description of what happened in the days following the Pulse attack.

Four days after the shooting, Adieh said she contacted the FBI and asked if it would be OK to pick up Salman and her son and bring them to Mississippi to stay with her.

“The FBI agent in Orlando … told me the FBI had nothing on her and nothing holding her, and I was free to come and get Noor,” Adieh wrote to the court.

She flew to Orlando, rented a car, picked up Salman and her son and took the pair to a hotel, where they were met by an FBI agent.

“The FBI agent gave Noor her purse that the FBI had previously taken the night of the incident and gave her a new cellphone (provided by the FBI),” Adieh said.

Once in Mississippi, she said the FBI constantly drove by her home but never spoke to Salman.

In September, Adieh said she contacted the FBI again and asked if it would be OK for Salman and her son to move to California to live with family.

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“When we left from Mississippi, we were accompanied by two (FBI) cars, one in front of us and one behind us, with four agents total,” Adieh wrote to the court. “They accompanied us the entire way to California. Wherever we stopped, they stopped. Wherever we slept, they slept.

“They never talked to us during this trip.”

Salman was arrested at her family’s California home on Jan. 16 and has been held at the Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, California, ever since.

‘American as apple pie’

In arguing for her release from jail, Salman’s friends and family argued that she was incapable of having any involvement in the Pulse attack.

“My impression of Noor was as such a kind, sweet, simple girl, I could see that she was someone that a lesser individual might take advantage of because of her sweet, trusting nature,” Salman’s high school math teacher, Heather Hayden, wrote to the court.

“Noor is as American as apple pie,” her cousin Rana Omar said. “I know she is incapable of knowing anything that has been claimed on the news. She would never hurt anyone.”

Omar added that Salman “is very childlike in her manner,” and loves to wear “Hello Kitty” clothing.

Very childlike in her manner." -- Rana Omar, Noor Salman's cousin

Family friend Lauri Jaber, who has known Salman since the two were infants, said it was not in her nature to be involved in a hate crime like the Pulse attack.

“Someone’s race, religion and identity never stopped Noor from becoming friends with someone,” Jaber wrote.

With Mateen gone, Salman’s attorneys argued that she was not a flight risk, or a risk to the public at large, if the court decided to grant her bond.

“Noor, unlike other terrorism defendants, was only present as a wife, and an abused wife at that,” a Tuesday court filing said. “The removal of the perpetrator husband mitigates the danger posed by the serious nature of the crime.”

Salman is scheduled to appear in California federal court Wednesday.