On Sunday night in Garland, Texas, two suspects opened fire on a Muhammad cartoon contest and exhibition. The first annual Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest was taking place at the Curtis Culwell Center when two men drove up and started shooting from outside. The gunmen opened fire on the exhibition, shooting one security guard in the leg. Garland law enforcement returned fire and killed both suspects, one of whom already had a criminal history related to jihad. While officials have not released a motive behind the attack, the caricature of the Muslim prophet Muhammad have incited similar attacks in the past.
Organized by Pamela Geller and her organization, American Freedom Defense Initiative, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled an anti-Muslim hate group, the exhibition encouraged people to submit cartoons of Muhammad, awarding the winning cartoon a $10,000 prize. If this theme feels strikingly similar to the caricatures in the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which prompted an attack in January that left 12 dead, it's not a coincidence.
Geller organized the exhibition in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack, telling The Washington Post:
We decided to have a cartoon contest to show we would not kowtow to violent intimidation and allow the freedom of speech to be overwhelmed by thugs and bullies.
Though there was initial speculation that the suspects had bombs in their vehicle, officials have found none.
As more details continue to emerge, here's everything we know so far about how it all went down on Sunday.
- Around 7 p.m. (CDT): The two suspects drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center, got out of their car, and began shooting into the building as the exhibition was coming to a close. Garland police returned fire and killed the suspects after a 15-second shootout. Garland Mayor Douglas Athas told CNN: "The first suspect was shot immediately. The second suspect was wounded and reached for his backpack. He was shot again."
- 7:45 p.m.: Officers tell local news reporters that two suspects were shot dead. Geller speaks to CBS Local from inside the center, saying, "I heard officers talking of possible explosions in backpacks and the car."
- 8:11 p.m.: Officers check the suspects' cars for explosives.
- 8:30 p.m.: Garland ISD spokesman Chris Moore says one of their security guards, Bruce Joiner, was shot in the ankle but is in stable condition at the hospital.
- 9:00 p.m.: Joiner is released from the hospital.
- 9:29 p.m.: The suspects' bodies are still at the scene.
- 10:33 p.m.: Joe Harn, spokesman for the Garland Police Department, holds a press conference. He sums up the night to reporters: "They drove out, got out, and opened fire on the security officer." He says he has "no idea about" the reports of a third suspect.
- Early Monday morning: The FBI identifies one of the suspects to ABC News as Elton Simpson, who was charged by federal agents in 2010 for plotting to travel to Somalia "for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad." Simpson's father, Dunston Simpson, tells the network that his son "made a bad choice," and that "we are Americans and we believe in America."
- Monday morning: The FBI and local authorities search Simpson's apartment. They believe the other suspect is his roommate.
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