Garland shooting: 2 killed after they open fire at Mohammed cartoon event.
Two men opened fire outside an event holding a cartoon contest of the Prophet Mohammed before they were shot dead by police in suburban Dallas Sunday night.While details about the gunmen, including their religion or their motive, weren't immediately known, the shooting -- as was the case in France in January and Denmark in February -- targeted a facility where depictions of the revered Muslim prophet was being caricatured.
And it quickly reignited the debate on free speech versus provocation.The keynote speaker at the event in Garland was right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who was placed on an al Qaeda hit list. And it was organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative -- considered an anti-Muslim group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.
"The Islamic jihadis are determined to suppress our freedom of speech violently." Pam Geller, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, told CNN. "They struck in Paris and Copenhagen recently, and now in Texas."
Why Islam forbids images of Mohammed
Exchange lasted seconds
The men drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, got out of their car and began shooting just as the "Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest" inside was ending around 7 p.m. (8 p.m. ET).
An unarmed security guard, Bruce Joiner, was shot in the ankle. He was later treated and released from a hospital.Garland police, who were helping with security, fired back, killing both gunmen. The exchange lasted about 15 seconds, police said."The first suspect was shot immediately," Garland Mayor Douglas Athas told CNN. "The second suspect was wounded and reached for his backpack. He was shot again."
The gunmen's identities weren't immediately released."We have no other indication that anyone else was involved," Athas said.Early Monday morning, FBI and local officials were checking the gunmen's vehicle for explosives and the area around the center was blocked off.Surrounding businesses, including a Walmart, were evacuated, as were attendees from the Curtis Culwell Center.
There is no immediate threat to the area, police said; the check for explosives was a precautionary measure."It's a very slow, tedious operation that goes on," Garland police spokesman Joe Harn said.
Heavy security for event
The American Freedom Defense Initiative said it specifically picked the venue, a school district-owned facility, because it hosted an event denouncing Islamophobia in January.The Sunday night event invited cartoonists to send in caricatures of Prophet Mohammad. The group said it received more than 350 submissions. The winning entry would get $10,000.
There were about 200 people at the event, police said."Most of the people who were there were from out of state," Athas said.Security was tight. The school district brought in extra officers, and the group itself hired several more. Security costs, the group said, were upwards of $30,000.Only those who purchased tickets ahead of time were admitted. They had to go through metal detectors.
"We were prepared for something like this," Harn, the police spokesman, said.Shortly after the shooting, a security officer in military fatigues interrupted the gathering to herd the attendees into an auditorium."There was an incident outside, a police officer has been shot. Two suspects have been shot. Possibly have explosives on 'em, okay?" he said. "I just need everybody to remain calm, become orderly and we're going to take you into the auditorium a little further away from the front of this building. All right?"
Someone asked, "Were the suspects Muslim?""I have no idea right now," he responded.
Depiction considered blasphemy
Depictions of Prophet Mohammed are considered blasphemous by many Muslims.The prohibition against illustrating the Prophet Mohammed began as an attempt to ward off idol worship, which was widespread in Islam's Arabian birthplace. But in recent years, it has taken a deadly toll.
In January, gunmen attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine that has a controversial history of depicting Mohammad, and killed 12 people.The next month, a gunman attacked a free speech forum in Copenhagen, Denmark featuring cartoonist Larks Vilks, who infuriated al Qaeda with his depictions of Mohammed.
In the United States, cartoonist Molly Norris is still in hiding, four years after she depicted the likeness of Mohammed on several items and was deemed a "prime target" for execution by Islamic extremists.Shortly after the Sunday night shooting, a prominent Muslim leader in Dallas tweeted that the incident was "just what we didn't want.""The community stayed away from event," wrote Imam Zia Sheikh. "Seems like a lone wolf type of attack. Just what we didn't want."
News Courtesy: www.cnn.com