Law enforcement officials identified the two gunmen killed by police on Sunday after they opened fire outside a cartoon-drawing contest of the Prophet Muhammad in a Dallas suburb. One of the gunmen was being investigated by the FBI and had been charged with plotting to travel for violent jihad, according to the New York Times.
Police officers shot and killed 30-year-old Elton Simpson when he and another man drove from Phoenix to Garland, Texas with automatic rifles and shot a security guard in the leg outside of the cartoon event. The other man was identified as Simpson’s roommate Nadir Soofi.
In 2010, federal prosecutors charged Simpson with lying to an FBI agent about plans to travel to Somalia to allegedly engage in violent jihad, the Times reported. A judge sentenced him to three years of probation but said the government had not yet proved that his plan involved terrorism.
The FBI opened an investigation into Simpson when he began posting about the Islamic State militant group on social media several months ago. The agency monitored his online postings but did not know he was planning the attack, the law enforcement officials said. The FBI had not been investigating his alleged accomplice.
FBI agents raided Simpson’s apartment and investigated his car for a possible bomb, but didn’t find any, the police told Reuters.
“Texas officials are actively investigating to determine the cause and scope of the senseless attack,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement.
Sunday’s contest, organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, was advertised as awarding $10,000 to the best cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. Depictions of the prophet are considered insulting to many Muslims and have sparked violence in the past. In January, gunmen killed 12 people in an attack at the offices of French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, in retaliation for its satirical cartoons of Muhammad.
The AFDI has sponsored anti-Islamic campaigns on buses and metro stations around the country, and is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Muhammad fought and terrorized people with the swords. Today, here in Garland, we fight Muhammad and his followers with the pen,” Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician known for his criticism of Islam, said during a speech at the event. “And the pen, the drawings, will prove mightier than the sword.”