USA Today: 2 Suspects Dead After Gunfire At Muhammad Exhibit

Two suspects were killed after they opened fire Sunday in a parking lot outside a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhammad, authorities said.

Garland’s city government issued a statement saying that as a Muhammad Art Exhibit event was coming to a close at the Curtis Culwell Center, “two males drove up to the front of the building in a car” and started shooting at a security officer.

“Garland police officers engaged the gunmen, who were both shot and killed,” the statement posted online said.

The security officer, a Garland Independent School District employee, was identified as Bruce Joiner. He was shot in the lower leg and suffered non-life-threatening injuries, according to a spokesman for Garland Police. He was in stable condition at a local hospital.

The exhibit was placed on lockdown and attendees later moved to a nearby high school.

Police suspected the suspects’ vehicle may contain a bomb and called in bomb squad experts. Surrounding businesses were evacuated.

An officer dressed in SWAT gear took the stage toward the end of the event at the Curtis Culwell Center near Dallas and told attendees that a shooting had occurred. .

A group called the American Freedom Defense Initiative hosted the Muhammad Cartoon Exhibit and $10,000 cartoon contest.

The arena, owned by the Garland school district, hosted a “Stand With the Prophet” event in January,.

The cartoon exhibit featured “images of Islam’s prophet, both historic and contemporary, and speeches by leading voices of freedom and internationally renowned free speech advocates,” according to a press release by the group.

Such drawings are deemed insulting to many followers of Islam and have sparked violence around the world. According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the prophet Muhammad — even a respectful one — is considered blasphemous.

Pamela Geller, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, said that she planned the Sunday event to make a stand for free speech in response to the outcries and violence over drawings of Muhammad, NBC News reported. Geller’s group is known for mounting a campaign against the building of an Islamic center blocks from the World Trade Center site and for buying advertising space in cities across the U.S. criticizing Islam.

“This is a war,” she posted on her website “This is war on free speech. What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?”

Dutch politician Geert Wilders, known for advocating a ban on the Kuran, was a keynote speaker at the event.

In January, 12 people were killed by gunmen in an attack against the Paris office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had lampooned Islam and other religions and used depictions of Mohammed.

SWAT officers initially held attendees in a room in the Culwell center, while authorities dealt with the shooting in the parking lot. Later, they moved everyone to nearby Naaman Forest High School.

On Wednesday, AFDI was at the root of Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s decision to ban all political advertising on its subways and buses after a judge ruled that a pro-Israel group was allowed to display an advertisement containing the phrase “Hamas Killing Jews” on New York City buses.

“Advertisements expressing viewpoint messages, regardless of the viewpoint being expressed, would no longer be accepted,” the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s general counsel, Jerome Page, told the committee on Monday.

New York is following in the footsteps of cities including Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, which already have banned political ads on public transit, Page said.

The lawsuit was filed last year by the American Freedom Defense Initiative after the MTA notified the group in August that it would display three of four proposed advertisements but not an ad with the quote “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah” because it could incite violence. In the ad, a covered face is shown next to the quote, which is attributed to “Hamas MTV.” It is followed by the words: “That’s his Jihad. What’s yours?”

Page said the decision to change MTA policy on advertising was prompted by safety concerns.

“We drew the line when we thought our customers, our employees and the public were in danger,” he said. “The judge gave short shrift to those concerns.”

The judge stayed the effect of the decision for a month so that it can be appealed. But the change in advertising policy would render an appeal unnecessary.


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One Comment

  • judy menagh says:

    May 8, 2015 at 7:01 PM

    I am glad you used the Madison Rising version of the National Anthem at the end of the movie “America”. I wish it would be used in more public venues. I think we need more passion in support of our country and our military.