by, Nomaan Merchant and Dean Schabner | 6abc.com
GARLAND, TX — Two armed men who opened fire on a security officer outside of a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad have been killed, authorities in the Dallas suburb of Garland said Sunday night.
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.
Garland Police Department officers engaged the gunmen, who were both shot and killed, the statement said.
The statement did not say whether the shooting was related to the event. The security officer’s injuries were not life-threatening, the city said.
The gunmen’s vehicle may contain an “incendiary device,” according to the statement. A bomb squad was on the scene, and nearby businesses were evacuated.
Police blocked off a large area around the center Sunday night. There was a heavy police presence, and at least three helicopters circled overhead.
Video courtesy of: CNN & Lovely Micky
The New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative had been hosting a contest at the center that would award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
Such drawings are deemed insulting to many followers of Islam and have sparked violence around the world. According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad – even a respectful one – is considered blasphemous.
Earlier Sunday, about 75 attendees at the contest were escorted by authorities to another room in the conference center. They were then taken to a separate location, where an Associated Press reporter was told they could not leave until FBI agents arrived to question them.
Johnny Roby of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was attending the conference. He told the AP he was outside the building when he heard around about 20 shots that appeared to be coming from the direction of a passing car.
Roby said he then heard two single shots. He said he heard officers yell that they had the car before he was sent inside the building.
Pamela Geller, president of the AFDI, told the AP before Sunday’s event that she planned the contest to make a stand for free speech in response to outcries and violence over drawings of Muhammad.
In January, 12 people were killed by gunmen in an attack against the Paris office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had lampooned Islam and other religions and used depictions of Muhammad.
Though it remained unclear several hours after the shooting whether it was related to event, she said Sunday night that the shooting showed how “needed our event really was.”
Geller’s group is known for mounting a campaign against the building of an Islamic center blocks from the World Trade Center site and for buying advertising space in cities across the U.S. criticizing Islam.
– Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle contributed to this report from Dallas.
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HERE is a ‘LIVE’ Feed from the event: the ‘attack’ takes place at the 1hr 29min. 30sec. mark:
Video courtesy of: Tom Trento and theunitedwest
Two people were fatally shot Sunday outside a Garland, Texas, community center that was hosting an event displaying cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, local officials said.
Garland police spokesman Joe Harn said that two men drove up to the community center and “opened fire on the security officers” hired to protect the event before being shot themselves.
Neither of the suspects have been identified because their bodies remain on the street where they were shot as police teams are using robots to see if the car they pulled up in was rigged with explosives. Harn said that the bodies will be cleared once the vehicle is checked for potential explosives.
One unarmed security guard from the local school district, which owns the community center where the event was held, was shot in the ankle but his injuries are said to be non-life threatening, according to Harn. Other Garland police officers who were on the scene were the ones who fatally shot the two suspects.
The controversial event, where attendees competed to draw the prophet Mohammed, which is explicitly banned in Islam and seen as a sign of grave disrespect, was hosted by a conservative anti-Islam group called the American Freedom Defense Initiative.
Harn said that police have been monitoring the lead-up to the event “for several months” and while he said there was no immediate credible threat before the shooting, organizers “luckily” decided to hire extra security because of the controversy.
The shooting lasted “seconds,” Harn said, and took place shortly before 7:00 p.m., not long before the event was set to end. Approximately 200 people attended the event, police say. The center was put on lockdown immediately after the shooting.
Harn said that both suspects had guns though police do not know what specific type because they have not secured the guns as they wait for the search for explosives in the car to be completed first.
Two senior law enforcement officials told ABC News that authorities will work vigorously over the next 12 hours to determine who the dead suspects are and whether the incident is directly tied to the conference. The FBI is already on the scene and have said that they have provided investigative and bomb technician assistance.
Texas governor Greg Abbott released a statement following the shooting, saying that there is an active investigation underway “to determine the cause and scope of the senseless attack in Garland, Texas.”
“This is a crime that was quickly ended thanks to the swift action by Garland law enforcement,” he said in the statement.
Businesses around the center, including Academy Sports, Walmart and Sam’s, were evacuated, the city said. Harn said that no nearby residents were evacuated from their homes.
The event, sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, featured scheduled speakers including Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has campaigned to have the Quran banned in the Netherlands. The winner of the contest was to receive $10,000.