Pulse nightclub shooting: Where is Omar Mateen's wife Noor Zahi Salman?
Noor Zahi Salman was seen last when she spoke at the Muslim Legal Fund of America's fundraiser in October 2020 about how she was charged for being Omar Mateen's accomplice
It's been five years since terrorist Omar Mateen gunned down 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The June 2016 massacre ripped apart the bonhomie of a community that was known for family trips to Disney World and left the LGBTQ community on edge during Pride month celebrations.
It was once the nation's deadliest mass shooting, a shocking mantle that Orlando held until the 2017 attack at a country music festival in Las Vegas left 60 civilians dead. That said, many are wondering what happened to the gunman's widow, Noor Salman, after she walked out of the Orange County Jail on March 30, 2018.
In October 2020, the Pulse shooter's wife spoke for the first time at a gala fundraiser for the Muslim Legal Fund of America, who helped defend her. In her speech, she recounted the seconds and hours after investigators burst into her residence in the early morning hours of January 16, 2017. She hasn't been heard from since.
“Close your eyes and imagine being asleep,” Salman told the audience. “You open your door to gun, to law enforcement with guns pointed at you. And all you can think about is your scared 4-year-old that just left.”
She was charged with aiding and abetting her husband more than a year and a half after her husband claimed dozens of innocent lives at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. FBI had claimed she had prior knowledge of what her husband had planned and even helped him carry out the attack.
Salman was taken from her home, searched, handcuffed and placed in a room. “You sit there alone and hopeless and wonder if you will ever see your child again,” she recalled. However, she was eventually declared not guilty on all counts in March 2018, thereby beating the charges of "obstruction and providing material support to a terrorist organization." If convicted, she would have faced life in prison.
Over the course of the trial, prosecutors and defense attorneys had managed to paint radically different pictures of Salman. She was accused of helping her husband prepare for the attack on one hand, but her defense said she was an abused woman who had "married a monster."
During her speech at the event for the Muslim Legal Fund of America, Salman gave an emotional account of events that had transpired since. “Despite the life you have lead and the love you have shown others you are accused of causing the the terrible tragic deaths of so many others,” she said.
She revealed she had spent more than a year in isolation, maintaining her innocence and wary about her fate. “All you understand is 12 people who do not know you have you fate in their hands,” she said. “There decision to acquit or not acquit is that was most important question in your life.”
Once a happy girl, Salman bemoaned she now only dresses in black and that it's hard for her to see beauty in the world. “Today, I jump when I hear sirens, I cannot sleep without a pill and I never want to leave my home,” she said.