One of the gunmen has been identified as Elton Simpson, who was convicted in 2010 in a case related to a FBI terror investigation.
The other gunman was later identified as Simpson’s, Nadir Hamid Soofi.
The “free speech” art exhibit and contest, themed “Draw the Prophet,” was created by the American Freedom Defense Initiative in response to a pro-Muslim event in January that drew thousands of protesters. It included the awarding of a prize to the cartoonist who drew the best depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. More than 300 entries were received for the contest, with an award of $10,000, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Islam prohibits depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, and cartoons of the Prophet have led to violence, including the shooting in January at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. An Officer Armed With a Handgun Killed the 2 Gunmen Who Had Assault Rifles
A Garland Police Officer fired upon the two gunmen, fatally shooting them, police said. He was armed with his service weapon, a handgun, while the two other gunmen had assault rifles. Several shots were fired, police said.
The gunmen, who were wearing body armor, died in the street near their car. Police said the officer, who works in the traffic division, followed his training and likely saved lives.
An unarmed security officer, Bruce Joiner, from the Garland Independent School District was shot by the gunmen and suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police told WFAA News. The shooting happened at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Garland is about 20 miles from Dallas.
The event was being live streamed on YouTube. A SWAT team officer interrupted the event and told the crowd that two suspects had been shot. He said they were “worried” that the gunmen may have also “possibly had explosives on them.”
He tells people to remain calm and orderly as they brought them to safety. Someone from the crowd yelled to him, “were the suspects Muslim?” and he responded that he has “no idea right now.”
Police told NBC 5 that they searched the suspect’s vehicle and others in the parking lot for explosives, but no explosives were found. Luggage was found in the vehicle.
There were about 200 people in attendance, police said.
WFAA reporter Jobin Panicker tweeted that those in attendance at the event were moved into a secure room by police.
Nearby businesses,including a Walmart store, were also evacuated.
Panicker posted video of the event’s attendees singing the Star Spangled Banner after being evacuated.
2. One of the Gunmen Claimed Responsibility for the Attack Before News of it Broke
Simpson is believed to have posted on his Twitter account to take responsibility for the attackjust before the shooting happened. The account has since been deleted.
The post was made at 6:35 p.m., about 20 minutes before news of the shooting was first reported. The account contains several tweets referencing ISIS and Islamic terrorists.
According to court records, Simpson received a sentence of three years probation after he was found guilty of making a false statement to the FBI.
Simpson told FBI agents he had not talked with others about traveling to Somalia, when he in fact had talked to others about traveling to the African country with others to engage in “violent jihad,” according to court documents.
He also told his users to follow @_AbuHu55ain, who posted about the shooting before the account was suspended.
According to the SITE intelligence service, the account belonged to British ISIS fighter Junaid Hussain.
Here are screenshots of those tweets:
See more of the tweets at the link below:
3. The American Freedom Defense Initiative’s Event Has Been a Subject of Controversy
The event created controversy with some saying that it is an attack on Islam. The event’s organizers, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, said it was just exercising its right to freedom of speech, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative is run by Pamela Geller, a conservative political activist, writer and commentator. She also co-founded the group Stop Islamization of America, which has been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and others. It calls itself a human rights organization dedicated to free speech, religious liberty and individual rights.
The group led the protest against Park51, a Muslim community center proposed two blocks away from the World Trade Center.
Geller posted a statementon her website after the shooting:
This is a war. This is war on free speech. What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?
Two men with rifles and backpacks attacked police outside our event. A cop was shot; his injuries are not life-threatening, thank Gd. Please keep him in your prayers.
The bomb squad has been called to the event site to investigate a backpack left at the event site.
The war is here.
4. The Organizers Created the Exhibit After a Pro-Islam Event at the Curtis Culwell Center
In January, thousands of protesters gathered at a pro-Islam event at the Curtis Culwell Center, according to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.
Most people at the event were from out of town, police said and it didn’t really have any connection to Garland, other than being in response to the January event.
The conference, organized by the Sound Vision Foundation, was called “Stand With the Prophet Against Terror and Hate,” and was a fundraiser to build a center to teach Muslims how to combat negative depictions of their faith.
Controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders was the keynote speaker at the event. Wilders has called for a ban on Islam as a way to fight radical groups. He tweeted that he left the building after the shooting:
5. Police Were Providing Security at the Event
According to the Dallas Morning News, police were at the event to provide security because of the controversy.
Concerns about public safety were brought up at a City Council meeting, the newspaper reported.
“Do we want to be involved with this type of rhetoric?” Lena Griffin asked the council. “It is not an issue of free speech but clearly one of public safety.”
The Curtis Culwell Center is owned by the Garland Independent School District.
Police were paid $10,000 by the event’s organizers for security.
“We went to work with GISD and set up a plan, outlined what we felt like needed to be done, along with things they had available and things they used in January,” police spokesman Joe Harn told the Dallas Morning News. “The guys that will be out there will be off-duty officers, just like regularly. But we made suggestions to what we thought the security setup should be.”