May 4, 2015
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – The gunmen killed after opening fire outside a Dallas art show featuring caricatures of Muhammad have been identified, media outlets are reporting.
Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi reportedly drove Sunday into the parking lot of the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland at 6:30 p.m., shortly after the American Freedom Defense Initiative wrapped up its “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest.”
Armed with assault rifles and wearing body armor, the men immediately began shooting at a Garland Independent School District security officer, and Garland police returned fire.
One shooter was immediately killed, while the other was killed after he was wounded and reached for a backpack inside the vehicle.
The security officer, Bruce Joiner, was shot in the ankle and released from the hospital hours later. Garland schools operate the event center.
ABC News reported Monday that a senior FBI official identified Phoenix, Ariz.-based Simpson as one of the shooters. An anonymous law enforcement official told The Washington Post the other gunman was 34-year-old Soofi.
Reports of explosives in the area Sunday resulted in the evacuation of several nearby businesses, including a Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.
Investigators did not find explosive devices in the suspects’ vehicle, and explosives technicians detonated several packages inside and around the vehicle as a precaution, Garland officials said Monday.
“The Garland Police Department was able to contain this situation at the perimeter of the event,” police officials said in a statement Monday. “The effectiveness of the public safety response illustrates why Garland is one of the safest cities in America and yesterday’s events don’t change that.”
Garland officials have so far declined to identify either shooter.
John Iannarelli, assistant special agent in charge at the FBI’s Phoenix office, said Texas authorities traced both suspects to a Phoenix apartment and believe the men were roommates.
Because Islam prohibits depictions of the prophet Muhammad as an example of idolatry, the New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative faced criticism and threats before the shooting for holding the contest.
The group received approximately 350 submissions to its contest, which offered a first prize of $10,000.
AFDI organized the event after Muslim groups held an event at the same facility in January called “Stand With the Prophet Against Terror & Hate.”
Residents had protested that event as well, complaining about the permission a religious group received to use a public school facility.
School district officials had cited nondiscriminatory facilities policies in permitting both events to occur.
Simpson was convicted in Phoenix federal court in 2010 for lying to federal agents about plans to travel to Africa, but he received a sentence of three years’ probation because a federal judge found that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to prove that Simpson was going to join a terrorist group.
Prosecutors had said Simpson was recorded saying “it is time to go to Somalia” for jihad, and that he urged an acquaintance to sell his car to fund a plane ticket out of the country.
Simpson’s lawyer in the case, Kristina Sitton, said her former client had been on a no-fly list, and that federal agents tried get Simpson to cooperate with them after his conviction. Simpson was “harmless,” she said.
“He grew up the most normal guy,” Sitton told ABC News. “Just a normal high school guy. … Converting to Islam seemed like a good thing for him. He had been going down a bad path and then he found Islam. He never struck me as someone who would do this sort of thing. I’m not a bleeding heart, I’m a Republican. I’ve seen some pretty bad guys and he seemed pretty normal.”
Simpson’s father, Dunston Simpson, told ABC News his son “made a bad choice.”
The men “had not much to talk about, because we had some very serious differences,” the father said, adding that his son worked at a dentist’s office.
They had not spoken in three weeks, the father said.
“We are Americans and we believe in America,” Simpson said Monday. “What my son did reflects very badly on my family.”
From Courthouse News.