Two men identified as Elton Simpson, 30, and Nadir Soofi, 34, were shot and killed after they opened fire on a security guard outside of a provocative Prophet Muhammad cartoon-drawing contest at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas.
The event was held by the American Freedom Defense Initiative and awarded $10,000 for the best caricature of Prophet Muhammad. Simpson and Soofi allegedly drove up behind the indoor arena towards the end of the event and got out of their car, wearing body armor and carrying assault rifles. They opened fire on a nearby police car and shot School District police Officer Bruce Joiner in the leg.
At a news conference on Monday, Officer Joe Harn, a spokesman for the Garland police, said that after Simpson and Soofi opened fire one police officer fired shots that initially subdued the gunmen, before nearby SWAT officers also opened fire and killed both men outside of their car.
Harn also said that security had been “ramped up for the controversial event,” and that the FBI had been aware of possible threats for months in advance.
The Associated Press reported that Simpson was first noticed by the FBI in 2006 because he had ties to Hassan Abu Jihaad, a former US Navy sailor who had been convicted of terrorism-related charges after he was “accused of leaking details about his ship’s movements to operators of a website in London that openly espoused violent jihad against the US.”
According to the AP’s report, the FBI then began monitoring Simpson in 2006 by having Dabla Deng, a Sudanese immigrant and FBI informant, befriend him on the grounds that Deng had recently converted and wanted to learn more about Islam.
Deng went on to secretly record his discussions with Simpson, and he gathered more than 1,500 hours of recorded conversation in four years. Their topics of discussion included fighting nonbelievers for Allah and planning a trip to South Africa to meet their “brothers” in Somalia, while using school as an excuse to travel overseas.
Simpson was arrested in 2010, just before he and Deng had planned to leave for South Africa. The AP noted that although there were more than 1,500 hours of recorded conversations, only 17 minutes and 31 seconds were played in court during Simpson’s trial, and he was prosecuted on one minor change: lying to a federal agent.
According to the order from district judge Mary Murguia, on or about January 7, 2010, Simpson “falsely stated to special agents of the FBI that he had not discussed traveling to Somalia, when in fact he had discussed with others traveling to Somalia for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad.”
While the first reports of the shooting came out at 6:50 p.m. Central Time on Sunday, a Twitter account with the name “Shariah of Light” posted a Tweet at 6:35 p.m. and was the first to use “#TexasAttack” referencing the Garland shooting. The account’s bio photo featured Anwar Awlaki, an American-born cleric who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011.