Garland Police: SWAT Team Officers Helped Kill 2 Gunmen Outside Cartoon Event | KERA News

Garland Police: SWAT Team Officers Helped Kill 2 Gunmen Outside Cartoon Event

May 4, 2015

Garland police now say SWAT team officers were involved in the shooting that left two gunmen dead outside a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest Sunday night.

Update 7:00 PM Tuesday: Garland police have not identified the officer who helped stop the two gunmen. But his attorney, Zach Horn, spoke with KERA's Stella M. Chávez on behalf of his client.

Horn, who's with the Dallas law firm Lyon, Gorsky, Gilbert & Livingston, said he couldn't comment on the specifics of what happened during the shootout, but agrees with people who have called the officer a "hero."

"Hero is too often just a cliché that we throw around all the time, but there's no other way to describe his bravery and his skill that he showed Sunday evening," Horn said.

Here's an excerpt of the interview:

Q: How did he react to the events that night?

A: “It’s a day that officers train very hard for, but it’s always a surprise when it happens. He was just experienced and skilled enough to recognize what was going on and act quickly enough to save a lot of people.”

Q: Has he talked about how he's feeling and what’s going through his mind?

A: “He’s very humble, and he’s very grateful for the outpouring of support across the state and across the country that he’s receiving, but he just wants to take some time and relax and be with his family.”

Q: Is there anything he'd like people to know?

A: “He’d like people to know that he’s very grateful for the outpouring of support and he really appreciates the privacy that’s being given to him right now.”

Q: Anything else you'd like to say?

A: "What I've been telling people is that this could have been a very different story."

Garland police spokesman Joe Harn said Monday that a single police officer subdued the two gunmen, but that after his initial shots, SWAT officers nearby also fired at the two men. Harn said police don't know who fired the lethal shots.

Police stopped the two gunmen far away from the entrance to the Garland ISD's Curtis Culwell Center, where attendees were about to leave a controversial contest displaying cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Harn did not identify the officer who initially shot the two gunmen.

Officers were still posted outside the building Monday.

Meanwhile, a federal law enforcement official is confirming the identity of the second gunman in the shooting outside a contest for Prophet Muhammad cartoons as Nadir Soofi, The Associated Press reports.

Several media organizations identified Soofi as Simpson's roommate.

The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

A search of federal court records did not reveal any criminal cases brought against a man by that name.

A woman who answered the door at a suburban Kansas City address listed for Soofi's father, Azam Soofi, said the family did not want to comment. She declined to give her name.

Elton Simpson has been identified as the other gunman. A lawyer who previously represented Simpson says the man was a devout Muslim and respectful of the legal process.

Arizona lawyer Kristina Sitton represented Elton Simpson, who according to court documents was convicted in Phoenix of lying to the FBI in 2010, about whether he'd discussed traveling to Somalia.

Sitton said she felt the charges were "completely trumped up," to justify the costly investigation. She said he had converted to Islam as a young man.

Update 3:45 p.m. Monday: We're learning more about a man identified as one of the gunmen in Sunday's attack in Garland. 

The Associated Press reports: A mosque president in Phoenix says a man who a federal official has identified as one of the gunmen who opened fire outside a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest has worshipped there for about a decade.

But Islamic Community Center of Phoenix president Usama Shami says the man quit showing up over the last two or three months.

A federal law enforcement official identified one of the suspects in the shooting as Elton Simpson.

Shami said Simpson got along with everyone at the mosque. But Shami said Simpson was rattled by an FBI investigation driven by an undercover informant who infiltrated the mosque.

According to court documents, Simpson was convicted in Phoenix of lying to the FBI in 2010, about whether he'd discussed traveling to Somalia.

Update 2:30 p.m. Monday: The country's largest Muslim advocacy group has issued a statement condemning Sunday's shooting in Garland. "We condemn yesterday's attack on an anti-Islam event in Garland, Texas, without reservation," said the statement from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"We also reiterate our view that violence in response to anti-Islam programs like the one in Garland is more insulting to our faith than any cartoon, however defamatory. Bigoted speech can never be an excuse for violence.

CAIR says it had advised Muslims to ignore Sunday's event. 

Update 11:15 a.m. Monday: Garland police say two men had opened fire with assault rifles on officers outside a venue hosting a provocative contest for Prophet Muhammad cartoons.

Officer Joe Harn said Monday the men, killed by security officers, also had more ammunition. He said investigators searched their vehicle and detonated several suspicious items, but no bombs were found in the vehicle.

He said luggage was found in vehicle but he wasn't sure what specifically was found amid the luggage

Harn said the officer shot in the lower leg was the only officer hurt. The officer has been released from a local hospital.

He said a security plan for the event had been developed over several months.

Harn said he wasn't ruling out that Sunday's shooting was a terrorist event. 

The two gunmen drove toward a squad car with a school officer and a city police officer that was patrolling an entrance at the facility, police said. The gunmen started to shoot. The school officer, who was unarmed, was shot in the ankle. Using a pistol, the police officer started shooting back, Harn said. 

The police officer "probably saved lives," Harn said. "He did a very good job."

Harn suspects the two gunmen were trying to get into the event center. 

Classes at nearby Naaman Forest High School went on as scheduled Monday morning.

American Freedom Defense Initiative leader talks about Sunday's shooting

Pamela Geller with the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which organized Sunday's event, talked with CNN this morning about her group's efforts: 

Update 10:05 a.m. Monday: KERA's Stella Chavez reports: The New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative hosted the contest, which included a $10,000 award for the best cartoon depicting the Islamic prophet. Muslim leaders said they told members of their community to stay away from the event. “We unequivocally condemn any kind of violence, any kind of tactics to intimidate, or if it is linked to the nature of the event, any kind of effort like that, we unequivocally condemn it," said Achraf Issam with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association. The organization has been involved in efforts to keep youth from becoming radicalized by Islamic militant groups like ISIS.

Update 9:45 a.m. Monday: The FBI says agents are searching a Phoenix apartment as part of the investigation into the deadly shooting outside a Garland venue hosting a provocative contest for Prophet Muhammad cartoons.

FBI spokesman Perryn Collier on Monday confirmed the Phoenix residence is being searched for indications of what prompted the shooting Sunday that left two gunmen dead and a security officer wounded outside a center in Garland.

ABC News cites a senior FBI official in reporting that one of the gunmen, a resident of the Phoenix apartment, was known to authorities and was the subject of an investigation. The ABC report says the man was convicted five years ago of lying to federal agents about plans to travel to Africa, in an apparent attempt to join a terror group there.

Two gunmen were killed Sunday night in Garland after opening fire on a security guard outside a Muhammad cartoon contest.

Pamela Geller with the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which hosted Sunday's event, has been tweeting since last night:

Original story: The city of Garland said in a statement posted on its Facebook page Sunday night that two men drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center and began shooting at a security officer. The statement says Garland Police Department officers engaged the gunmen, who were both shot and killed.

The statement doesn't say whether the shooting was related to the event.

The statement says the gunmen's vehicle may contain an "incendiary device." A bomb squad is on scene.

Nearby businesses were evacuated.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative was hosting a contest that would award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

The event had been on lockdown and attendees were being evacuated after authorities reported a shooting outside the building.

An officer dressed in SWAT gear took the stage toward the end of the event at the Curtis Culwell Center and told attendees, including an Associated Press reporter, that a shooting had occurred. Garland Police Department spokesman Joe Harn has declined to confirm the SWAT officer's statements and says he has no details.

About 75 attendees were taken to another room. Later, a group of 48 people were escorted to a school bus. Authorities told attendees they would be taken to a nearby high school. A second group was set to be moved shortly after.

The New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative was hosting a contest that would award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad at the venue.

The Dallas Morning News reports:

Authorities extended a perimeter 2,000 feet around the Culwell Center, and they were investigating a car within that zone. Garland police were waiting for a bomb squad to examine the vehicle.

Reports of the incident began to develop shortly before 7 p.m., when the event had been scheduled to conclude. A speaker had finished his presentation shortly after 6:30 p.m. Throughout the event, there had been no notable protests, despite its controversial nature.