DALLAS, Texas — Two gunmen are dead after opening fire at a security officer outside of a Texas event that included a contest to see who could draw the best cartoon of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
The incident occurred on Sunday evening just as the “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” was coming to a conclusion. Two men, one of which has been identified as Elton Simpson of Arizona, drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland and began shooting at a security officer. Police officers who were on duty for extra security then returned the gunfire with the suspects, fatally wounding them.
“The first suspect was shot immediately,” Mayor Douglas Athas explained to CNN. “The second suspect was wounded and reached for his backpack. He was shot again.”
Simpson had reportedly been watched by the FBI for terror suspicions in the past, being convicted five years ago for lying to investigators about his plans to travel to Somalia. A judge ruled, however, that it was unproven that he had intentions to join a terror organization.
Federal investigators have been searching Simpson’s apartment in Arizona since last night, and some reports state that he is believed to be behind the Tweets that were published just 15 minutes before the shooting took place.
“The bro with me and myself have given bay’ah to Amirul Mu’mineen,” the Tweet, written under the profile name “Shariah is Light,” read. “May Allah accept us as mujahideen (jihadists). Make dua. #texasattack.”
According to ABC News, ISIS sympathizers had been calling for attacks on the event for the past week, pointing to the Charlie Hebdo shootings in France, and urging the U.S. “brothers” to likewise.
The contest was organized by the New York-based American Freedom Initiative, led by Pamela Geller, who identifies as Jewish and regularly speaks against Islam. She has become known in recent years for her legal battles to place advertisements decrying Islam and exposing violent texts in the Koran in subways and other transportation systems.
Geller was one of the speakers at Sunday’s event, as well as Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is stated to be on an al-Qaeda hit list. Approximately 200 people were attending the exhibit and contest, which displayed submissions from across the nation depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The winner was to receive $10,000.
Geller had obtained security for the event, and metal detectors were used to screen ticket holders. Only those who had tickets were allowed to enter the exhibit and contest.
Police spokesperson Joe Harn told reporters that a bomb squad searched the vehicle of the suspects as a precaution.
“Because of the situation of what was going on today and the history of what we’ve been told has happened at other events like this, we are considering their car [is] possibly containing a bomb,” he said.
“Texas officials are actively investigating to determine the cause and scope of the senseless attack,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with all those affected tonight.”
The incident happened very quickly and was over in approximately 15 seconds.