Two men were shot and killed by police on Sunday night after they opened fire outside a controversial art show in Garland, Texas, that focused on cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Shortly before 7 p.m., when the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest was scheduled to end, two men drove up to the front of the Curtis Culwell Center and shot at a security officer. Garland mayor Douglas Athas told the L.A. Times one of the gunmen was shot by police “immediately,” and the other was hit when he reached for a backpack. Both men died at the scene.
One school security guard, Bruce Joiner, was wounded. “He was shot in the leg, transported to the hospital and he’ll be fine,” said Athas.
The exhibit was put on lockdown, and then attendees were moved to a nearby school, USA Today reports. Surrounding businesses have been evacuated, and police called in the bomb squad to investigate the gunmen’s car.
In the AP recording below, an officer is heard telling exhibit attendees that there’s been a shooting. “Were the suspects Muslim?” asks a man in the crowd. “I have no idea right now,” says the officer.
In February, the American Freedom Defense Initiative announced that it would hold an exhibit displaying drawings of Muhammad, which are deeply offensive to Muslims, in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Dutch MP Geert Wilders, who has called Islam the “ideology of a retarded culture” and campaigned to have the Quran banned in the Netherlands, spoke at the event. A top prize of $10,000 was awarded to the best Muhammad cartoon, following a contest on the AFDI’s website. That’s the same amount the group paid to place 40 additional security guards at the event.
The Culwell Center, which is owned by Garland’s school district, was selected for Sunday night’s exhibit because it was the site of an anti-Islamophobia conference in January titled “Stand With the Prophet.” According to the Dallas Morning News, that event drew about 2,000 attendees and 200 protesters.
AFDI president Pamela Geller — who is known for campaigning against the proposed Islamic center near the World Trade Center and placing anti-Muslim ads in New York’s subway — organized both the earlier protest and the exhibit. “We choose freedom,” Geller told Breitbart Texas last week. “Which is why we are holding our free speech event in the same venue, in the same city and state as the Muslim sharia event. Freedom lovers must stand up for free speech and not submit to savagery, supremism and tyranny, now. The jihadists mean to bring this war to our streets.”
Some Garland residents objected to holding the event in their town and raised concerns about security issues. School officials said they had no choice. “Because it is operated through district funds, which are also state and federal, we have to maintain a nondiscriminatory approach to those who seek to lease that facility,” Garland Independent School District communications director Chris Moore said. “It’s the same for any organization.”
UPDATE: The L.A. Times reports that two Twitter accounts posted messages about the attack before and after it occurred. “The knives have been sharpened, soon we will come to your streets with death and slaughter!” the user “AbuHussainAlBritani” tweeted beforehand. “Allahu Akbar!!!!! 2 of our brothers just opened fire at the … art exhibition in texas!” the account tweeted afterward. “Kill Those That Insult The Prophet.”
Geller wrote on her website:
This is a war. This is war on free speech. What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?
Two men with rifles and backpacks attacked police outside our event. A cop was shot; his injuries are not life-threatening, thank Gd. Please keep him in your prayers.
The bomb squad has been called to the event site to investigate a backpack left at the event site.
The war is here.