Two men who opened fire on people outside an Islam-themed art show in Garland, Texas were shot and killed by local police on Sunday.
At 7:00 PM, two gunman arrived in a car and began shooting at people outside the Curtis Culwell Center. They shot an unarmed security officer, who was later treated at a local hospital and released. Within moments the Garland police shot and killed the two gunmen. Police on the scene locked down the facility to protect about 200 people inside. The identities of the gunmen have not been publicized.
“Texas officials are actively investigating to determine the cause and scope of the senseless attack,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a written statement.
The event taking place at the Culwell Center involved a controversial art contest. It was organized by the New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative and was awarding a cash prize for the best cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad. As is now well known, similar cartoons have sparked violent reactions from Muslims in Europe, as such depictions are considered offensive by many Muslims. The show’s organizers argued that their contest is simply an expression of freedom of speech.
Locals and authorities had expected there to be protests on the night of the event, which had garnered a lot of media attention. There was heavy security on site, including the Garland police, as well as school district security and private guards.
Alia Salem, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Dallas-Fort Worth, said that she and other Muslims had wanted nothing to do with the event.
“We were actively ignoring and encouraging the community to ignore it,” she said. “We did not want to be the bearers of any kind of incitement.”
Before the shootings, the event’s organizer, Geller, dismissed critics who called her American Freedom Defense Initiative an extremist organization. The event’s keynote speaker was Geert Wilders a right-wing Dutch politician, well-known for his anti-Islamic views.
“We are here in defiance of Islam to stand for our rights and freedom of speech,” he said at the event. “That is our duty.”
The Culwell Center saw previous ethnic tension when a pro-Islam “Stand With the Prophet in Honor and Respect” event in January drew opposing, anti-Islam demonstrators. Organizers were criticized for the timing of the event, little more than a week after Islamic militants in France killed 12 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.