Sunday night, a Texas traffic cop took down two heavily armed men who attempted to storm a building where a ‘Draw the Prophet’ Mohammad contest was taking place, killing both before they could make their way inside.
A group called the American Freedom Defense Initiative hosted the event, the “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest,” which offered a $10,000 prize for the best artwork or cartoon depicting the Prophet. Drawing the Prophet is deemed insulting to many followers of Islam, even if its a respectful drawing, and have sparked violence around the world, such as the Paris terrorist attack that occurred in January 2015 and left 17 dead.
At around 6:50 p.m. on Sunday, two men jumped from the car and fired at a police car that was blocking an arena parking lot entrance. A Garland police officer and an unarmed security guard were in the squad car and began to exit as the vehicle approached. The gunmen wounded the security guard, and the police officer returned fire, killing both assailants, according to Yahoo News. Afterwards, police suspected the suspects’ vehicles may contain a bomb so they called in bomb squad experts and evacuated surrounding businesses, but no bombs were found.
The security officer, a Garland Independent School District employee, was identified as Bruce Joiner. He was shot in the lower leg and suffered non-life-threatening injuries, according to a spokesman for Garland Police. He was in stable condition at a local hospital.
Two government sources who asked not to be named said the shooters, believed to have driven 1,100 miles from Phoenix to invade the contest at a suburban Dallas venue, were roommates Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, of Phoenix, Arizona. Court documents show that Simpson had been under surveillance since 2006 and was convicted in 2011 of lying to FBI agents over his desire to join violent jihad in Somalia.
Two tweets apparently sent out prior to the shooting from two social media accounts linked to radical Islam seemed to foreshadow the attack. One, sent at 6:35 p.m., some 15 minutes before the attack, used the hashtag #texasattack. “May Allah accept us as mujahideen,” it said.
Pamela Gellar, President of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, went on Fox & Friends and stood by the event, saying, “Clearly what happened is indicative of how needed this conference was.” “Inoffensive speech needs no protection,” she said. “Offensive speech needs protection … [and] I’m not responsible for the violence conducted by others.”
Those inside the Curtis Culwell Center, who had gone through heavy security to enter the event, were not aware of the attack until afterward.
Police and federal agents had planned security for months ahead of the event that was attended by 75 people. Organized by the free-speech organization, American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), $10,000 was paid for extra protection, including local police, a SWAT team, FBI and ATF agents.