RODEO, California (AP) — 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.