The two gunmen who attacked a Muhammed cartoon contest near Dallas on Sunday used assault rifles to open fire on two officers parked at an entrance to the event venue but were quickly shot dead by a police officer, according to Garland police spokesman Joe Harn.
During a Monday morning press conference on the shooting, Harn (pictured above) added new details that painted a dramatic picture of officers suddenly coming under fire but managing to thwart what police said was an intended attack on the 200 people attending the event inside, which was sponsored by the anti-Islam group American Freedom Defense Initiative. The group, co-founded by Pamela Geller, is listed as an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Two officers – a Garland police officer and an unarmed security officer for the local school district – were sitting in a patrol car blocking the entrance to the event. When the suspects arrived in their vehicle, the two officers began to step out of the patrol car, according to Harn.
The gunmen, who were wearing body armor, then opened fire with assault rifles on the two officers. According to Harn, the armed police officer shot and killed both gunmen with his pistol. He was not injured in the shooting. The unarmed security officer, Bruce Joiner, was injured in the ankle and released from the hospital on Sunday. He was the only individual injured by the gunmen in the shooting, according to Harn.
Harn said that the officer who killed the suspects “did what he was trained to do” and “probably saved lives.” Harn said that the officer kept the gunmen from entering the Curtis Culwell Center, where the cartoon contest was taking place.
After searching the gunmen’s vehicle, authorities found additional ammunition and luggage in the trunk, but did not find explosives.
According to Harn, police and event coordinators were prepared for an attack on the event. The American Freedom Defense Initiative, the group that organized the event, and the Garland police developed a security plan for the event ahead of time.
Harn said that Garland police, as well as a bomb squad, a SWAT team, the FBI and ATF patrolled the event. There were also off-duty cops hired to secure the event. According to Harn, the American Freedom Defense Initiative paid $10,000 for additional security at the event.
He said that police had not been aware of any specific threats against the event, but that they developed a security plan due to the type of event and previous issues the group has had. Authorities had also been aware of online “chatter” about the event from a few months ago. On Mondaym Harn said that the plan developed by police was “successful.”
“We were able to stop those men before they were able to penetrate” the perimeter of the event, Harn said.
Harn did not reveal the identities of the suspects and did not have details on a potential motive. He said that authorities are investigating whether the shooting was a terrorist attack, but Harn said that authorities have not yet labeled it such.
“This is not going to be a real fast investigation,” Harn said.