SWAT team shot Muhammad cartoon event gunmen, police chief says

Police had 'absolutely no information' about a threat to the prophet Muhammad cartoon contest, they say

Authorities had "absolutely no information" about an imminent threat to the prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, where two gunmen opened fire last week, police said Monday, revealing new information about how officials responded to the May 3 attack.

Armed with assault rifles, Elton Simpson, 30, and his roommate Nadir Soofi, 34, shot and wounded a security guard outside the event, but were shot to death by police before they could kill anyone, police have said.

In a news conference Monday, Garland Police Chief Mitch Bates said SWAT team members, not a traffic officer, fired the final shots at the suspects seconds after the attack began. It had previously been reported that a Garland traffic officer with a service pistol had confronted and killed the suspects.

According to Bates, that officer wounded both suspects seconds before Garland SWAT team members used assault rifles and duty pistols to shoot at Simpson and Soofi. Both men died at the scene.

Three assault rifles, three pistols and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were later found in the suspects' car and on their bodies. Bomb squad officers also spent several hours searching for explosives on the suspects and in their car, but found none, police said.

Simpson was well known to federal agents and had been prosecuted in a terrorism-related investigation. Investigators had learned hours before the event that Simpson "might be interested" in going to the event, FBI Director James Comey said last week.

But on Monday, Bates rejected reports that law enforcement officials had been warned the suspects might attack the event, calling such reports inaccurate.

"We absolutely had no information that anyone, including Simpson and Soofi, were targeting this event," Bates told reporters. "That did not exist, that did not happen at all, nowhere."

The information contained in an FBI memo would not have changed the police response, he said.

On May 1, the FBI issued a national bulletin to law enforcement officials that identified the contest as a "potential target" based on the nature of the event and who would be present, Bates said Monday.

Then, several hours before the contest was to begin, an FBI analyst sent an "informational email" about Simpson to the local FBI joint terrorism task force, which includes a Garland police detective.

According to the FBI, the bulletin included a picture of Simpson and information about his associates and possible license plates. Bates told reporters that no one with the Garland Police Department or FBI nor state trooper officials at a command post set up for the event were aware of the email until after the shooting.

Bates insisted that the information it contained would not have changed his department's response to the shooting and could not have prevented it.

Bates noted that 40 police personnel had been assigned to a security detail for the event, a much higher number than the usual handful of officers usually required for a gathering of that size.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

1:16 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional details about the shooting from police.

This article was originally published at 10:43 a.m.

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