By Patty Montagno
The award winning Curtis Culwell Center in Garland is now a facility shrouded in controversy and blood shed.
Two gunmen were killed outside the center May 3 where an estimated crowd of 200 were attending a controversial Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative hosted the event that featured a contest for cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Garland Independent School District owns the facility.
According to GISD Public Information Officer Joe Harn, the two suspects pulled up to the event in a car, immediately got out with assault rifles and began shooting at a police car that was parked next to a barricade.
“Garland ISD SRO Bruce Joiner was hit but suffered non-life threatening injuries,” he said. “A traffic officer at the scene opened fire on the suspects with a service pistol, killing both of them outside their car.
He did a very good job and probably saved lives.” His name has not been released.
Attendees of the event were rushed inside the center by security after the shots were heard.
Harn said one of the gunmen has been identified as Phoenix resident Elton Simpson, who was convicted in 2010 in a case related to a FBI terror investigation.
U.S. law enforcement officials have identified the second shooter as Nadir Soofi, the roommate of Simpson.
A 1,000-foot radius around the adjacent Walmart and Academy Sports were shut down and evacuated.
Sachse Police were on standby mode.
Harn said they believe the two men killed outside the art show were there to shoot all the people in attendance.
Harn explained in a Monday press conference that security had been ramped up for the controversial event and a plan had been in place involving the FBI for months.
“Organizers of the event paid $10,000 themselves to have extra officers on hand,” he said.
In her Twitter post, Pamela Geller, president of the AFDI said the event was organized to support free speech. Attendees viewed cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.
Although Naaman Forest High School was opened on Monday, attendance was not mandatory..
Advanced placement testing scheduled for the center was canceled, according to Garland ISD.
According a press release, Governor Greg Abbott offered full support to Garland Mayor Douglas Athas. The release states that “the Governor also received a briefing from Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw on the ongoing investigation into the shooting.”
Abbott also expressed his gratitude to Garland ISD security officer Bruce Joiner
“This morning I called Mayor Athas to offer any state resources and assistance that would aid his city following this heinous attack,” he said.
The governor also praised the city of Garland’s swift and effective action to stop these gunmen and protect innocent lives.
“I also received a briefing from the Department of Public Safety on the latest developments regarding the actions and motivations of the shooters,” he said. “I instructed Director McCraw to work with federal authorities to fully investigate the assailants’ ties to organized terrorist activity, and received assurances that DPS will continue to communicate with my office and the public as additional information can be released.”
The incident also drew an outcry of negativity from the community about the open rental policy for the center.
Officials said the center could not survive if only school related events were allowed.
“I am in shock over the seriousness of that event,” Sachse resident Cyndi Mitchell said. “ I am disappointed that our children and our communities have been put in such a dangerous situation. Allowing these types of events to take place at the Curtis Culwell Center is an outrage.”
Mitchell added that terrorist groups are dangerous.
“I will not let this fear disrupt my life,” she said. “However I am deeply concerned about the upcoming graduations being held there.”