Organised by the anti-Islam New York group American Freedom Defense Initiative, and promoted by right wing news site Breitbart, the event was an exhibition of critical cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed. Any such depictions are considered an act of blasphemy by many Muslims, though some counter that this is a recent trend in Islam.
It has been reported by news media that two gunmen arrived outside the exhibition complex and began shooting. Unarmed security guard and ex-police officer, Bruce Joiner, 58, was shot in the leg, before police returned fire, killing the gunmen. Dallas Morning News reported:
The bodies of the gunmen remained on the street outside the Culwell Center hours after they were shot, and their identities had not been released late Sunday.
A bomb squad was investigating whether explosives might be in their car.
The 200 attendees were evacuated and police locked down the centre, and a nearby shopping mall was also sealed off. Bomb quads have also been summoned after reports of an incendiary device.
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." Joiner was released from hospital on Sunday night.
The ticketed event took place in light of the recent shooting at the left wing radical magazine offices of Charlie Hebdo in France over their repeated cartoon portrayal of Mohammed. Cartoonists were invited to submit cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad and organisers received over 350 submissions. The first prize was to have been $10,000.
The winner of the prize was Bosch Fawstin, the ex-Muslim cartoonist and creator of the comic book The Infidel, a strongly anti-Islam superhero comic featuring the character Pigman who attacks Islamic terrorists dressed in pigskin, heavily influenced by the work of Frank Miller. He previously appeared on The Daily Show to defend his comic, in the light of the Batman Islamic character Nightrunner.
The venue was chosen because it had previously hosted an anti-Islamophobia event earlier in the year. The event was also attended by Geert Wilders, far-right Dutch politician who gave the keynote speech.
President of the AFDI, Pamela Gellar, wrote on her blog,
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.
Before the event, Fox 4 News reported extra security had been put in place,
There, metal detectors inside and blockades outside are in place as a precaution.
"We'll be paying attention to any kind of chatter that we need to," said Officer Joe Harn with the Garland Police Department. "If anything raises suspicions, we will react to that."
"Once inside the building, these people that are putting on the event, they're in charge of that," said Harn. "We're just gonna make sure that everybody is safe on the outside and that there's nobody getting inside that's not supposed to be there."
The local chapter of CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, says it is an attempt to bait the Muslim community and it is not planning to protest the art exhibit.
One of the suspects has now been identified as the 31 year old Elton Simpson, a subject of a previous and related investigation:
Overnight and today FBI agents and a bomb squad were at Simpson's home in an apartment complex in north Phoenix where a robot is believed to be conducting an initial search of the apartment.
Officials believe Simpson is the person who sent out several Twitter messages prior to the attack on Sunday, in the last one using the hashtag #TexasAttack about half an hour before the shooting.
That account has since been suspended. The other suspect is believed at this time to have been an unnamed room mate.