Monday, May 4, 2015

Official Identifies One Suspect in Attack at Texas Anti-Islam Event - The New York Times


Official Identifies One Suspect in Attack at Texas Anti-Islam Event

F.B.I. investigators on Monday outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Tex., where two gunmen opened fire Sunday night before they were shot and killed by police officers. The gunmen’s bodies remained where they fell well into the day on Monday. CreditBrandon Wade/Associated Press

GARLAND, Tex. — One of the two gunmen who were killed Sunday after opening fire at an event where people were invited to present cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad was identified on Monday by a law enforcement official as a man who had previously been labeled by the F.B.I. as a jihadist terrorism suspect.
Police officers shot and killed the man, identified as Elton Simpson of Phoenix, and his companion Sunday evening, outside the Curtis Culwell Center, at an event organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a New York-based group that also uses the name Stop Islamization of America. The gunfire, which began shortly before 7 p.m., left a security guard wounded.
In 2010, federal prosecutors in Arizona charged Mr. Simpson with plotting to travel to Somalia “for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad,” and then lying to a federal agent about his plans. A judge found him guilty of lying to the agent, but said the government had not proved that his plan involved terrorism, and sentenced him to three years’ probation.
The police and F.B.I. agents in Phoenix searched an apartment believed to be connected to Mr. Simpson, with much of the Autumn Ridge apartment complex cordoned off through the night. At the same time, the F.B.I. office in Dallas confirmed that it was providing investigators and a bomb technician to aid the police in Garland, a city just outside Dallas.
Officials did not give a motive for the attack Sunday evening, but drawings of Muhammad, considered offensive by many Muslims, have drawn violent responses in the past. Shortly before the shooting, messages were posted on Twitter with the hashtag #texasattack, including one saying, “May Allah accept us as mujahideen.”
“As today’s Muhammad Art Exhibit event at the Curtis Culwell Center was coming to an end,” a City of Garland Facebook post said, “two males drove up to the front of the building in a car. Both males were armed and began shooting at a Garland I.S.D. security officer.”
The Garland Independent School District said in a statement that its security officer, Bruce Joiner, was shot in the ankle and taken to a hospital. He was later released.
The police, fearing that the gunmen’s car might contain an explosive device, dispatched a bomb squad and evacuated the center and nearby businesses, including a Walmart.
Well into the day Monday, the gunmen’s bodies remained where they fell the evening before.
The event included a contest for the best caricature of the Prophet Muhammad, with a $10,000 top prize.
Drawings of the prophet are considered offensive in most interpretations of Islam. In January, gunmen in Paris attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical newspaper known for printing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, killing 12 people. The 2005 publication of cartoons of Muhammad in a Danish newspaper prompted demonstrations and drew death threats, and four men were convicted of plotting a retaliatory attack on the newspaper.
A live video stream of the Garland event on the organizer’s website recorded the moment when the crowd was interrupted by a private security guard in military fatigues, who bounded onto the stage to announce that there had been a shooting outside. “Were the suspects Muslim?” a man shouted.

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