UPDATE (8:14 a.m.): An FBI official has identified one of the gunmen as Elton Simpson of Phoenix, ABC News reports. The FBI had previously investigated Simpson for possible terrorism, and he was convicted in 2010 of lying to federal officials about the purpose of a trip to Africa. He is suspected of being the person who tweeted several times, once using the hashtag #TexasAttack, shortly before the event.
Two gunmen were killed Sunday evening after they shot a security guard outside a controversial contest and exhibit in Garland, Texas, devoted to cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
According to The Dallas Morning News, the two men pulled up in front of the Curtis Culwell Center, just as the event was ending, opened fire on a security guard and then were shot and killed by Garland police. The guard was taken to the hospital but was later released. Meanwhile, the bodies of the two gunmen remained in the street while the bomb squad was called to investigate their vehicle. The center was locked down, and nearby Walmart and Sam's Club stores were evacuated.
Sponsored by the New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative, listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-Muslim hate group, the "Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest" awarded $10,000 to Bosch Fawstin (The Infidel) as the winner of an online cartoon competition. Last week, two Twitter accounts belonging to purported jihadists called for attacks on American and Australian cartoonists who depicted the Prophet Muhammad. One of the Twitter users specifically mentioned the Texas event.
In January, two gunmen attacked the offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which had published numerous cartoons of Muhammad, and killed 12 people. Depictions of Muhammad are considered offensive by many Muslims, although numerous Muslim scholars have stated that Islam does not condone violence in response.
AFDI was recently in the news when it ran ads equating Islam to Nazism on buses in San Francisco; someone altered the ads with images of Ms. Marvel. Just last week, a judge ruled the New York City transit system could not decline anti-Islam ads from the group; in response, the Metropolitan Transit Authority will no longer carry political ads.
In January, the Culwell Center, which is owned by the Garland school district, was the site of an event called "Stand with the Prophet in Honor and Respect," sponsored by the Sound Vision Foundation, to raise funds for a center to help Muslims spread positive messages about their religion. Protesters, including some from AFDI, picketed the event, whose keynote speaker was controversial Muslim leader Imam Siraj Wahhaj. At the time, the Garland school district said it could not discriminate against any group that wanted to rent the center.
According to The Dallas Morning News, AFDI deliberately chose the Culwell Center as the venue for the exhibit because of the previous event, and president Pamela Geller said the group had paid $10,000 up front for 40 security guards. At the time Geller said, “I have held scores of protests. Never has there been a violent incident. I’m more afraid of staying quiet. That to me is far scarier.”