Garland Shooting: Two Gunmen Dead at Muhammad Cartoon Contest in Texas; Organization Defends Hosting Event

( [email protected] ) May 04, 2015 11:42 AM EDT
Muhammad Shooting in Texas
Police officers address attendees at the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest. Mike Stone/Reuters

Two men opened fire and injured a security guard at an event in Texas, disrupting a cartoon contest that depicts the Prophet Muhammad, a key figure in Islam. Police have killed both gunmen.

According to Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times, police in Garland, Texas, shot two men at the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest, which was held by prominent conservatives who have previously criticized Islam harshly. The attack only lasted a few seconds.

"He was shot in the leg, transported to the hospital and he'll be fine," Garland Mayor Douglas Athas said.

Athas added that police immediately shot one of the gunmen. The second shooter was killed after he tried to reach for a backpack; police believed the shooters brought explosives with them.

"Officials then evacuated the area as attendees were led away from the front of the building," Pearce wrote. "Police searched for possible explosives in the area late into the night."

According to Saeed Ahmed, Ed Lavandera and Joe Sutton of CNN, the keynote speaker at the event was Geert Wilders, a right-wing Dutch politician who has been targeted by al-Qaida for his extreme anti-Islam views. The event was organized by controversial political figure Pam Geller, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative; the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified that organization an "anti-Muslim group."

"The Islamic jihadis are determined to suppress our freedom of speech violently," Geller said, claiming that the shooters were Muslim in origin. "They struck in Paris and Copenhagen recently, and now in Texas."

CNN reported that details haven't come out yet on the shooters, including their religious beliefs or motives. However, the mayor thought no one else was involved in the attack.

"We have no other indication that anyone else was involved," Athas said.

Randy Potts, who covered the event for the Daily Beast, told the Los Angeles Times that around 200 people attended the controversial event. In addition, the contest had tight security before the shooting.

"The security, as you can imagine, is pretty extensive," Potts said. "Even before we came ... maybe 50 to 100 feet away from the building, all around, was all blocked off."

According to CNN, Geller's organization picked the venue, which was owned by the city's school district, because it has previously hosted an event that denounced Islamophobia in January. The event invited cartoonists to draw caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad; the winner would have received $10,000.

"Most of the people who were there were from out of state," Athas said.

CNN reported that many Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet Mohammed as blasphemous to Islam because it was considered a form of "idol worship." However, Geller remained unapologetic for hosting the event.

"This incident shows how much needed our event really was," Geller said. "The freedom of speech is under violent assault here in our nation. The question now before us -- will we stand and defend it, or bow to violence, thuggery, and savagery?"

Geller added that she would not "abridge my freedoms so as not to offend savages." Wilders expressed similar sentiments during the event.

"The day we give away humor and freedom of speech is the day that we cease to exist as a free and independent people," Wilders said.

Tags : texas, Dallas, Prophet Muhammad, Muhammad cartoons, Muhammad parody, Draw Muhammad day, Geert Wilders, Pam Geller, American Freedom Defense Initiative, Southern Poverty Law Center, Muslim terrorists, freedom of speech, Freedom of Expression, al-Qaida, Islamic terrorism, potential Islamic terrorism, U.S. satire, satire and free society