In Wake of Muhammad Cartoon Event Shootings, Dallas Bishop Offers Prayers
‘I pray for all those involved and offer a special prayer of thanksgiving for our law enforcement officers who put themselves in harm’s way every day to keep the public safe.’
DALLAS — The attempted attack of two gunmen on a Texas venue hosting an event about cartoons depicting Islam’s prophet Muhammad has drawn a prayerful response from Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas.
“I am saddened by what occurred Sunday evening in Garland,” Bishop Farrell said May 4. “I pray for all those involved and offer a special prayer of thanksgiving for our law enforcement officers who put themselves in harm’s way every day to keep the public safe. Certainly, they saved many lives from being taken in this incident.”
“Let us continue to pray for tolerance and understanding in our world,” the bishop added.
Police shot and killed the two gunmen after they opened fire outside of the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, which hosted an exhibit and contest for cartoons depicting Muhammad.
The gunmen shot an unarmed security officer before they were killed. The security officer was treated at a hospital for an ankle wound and then released, The Dallas Morning News reported. A bomb squad investigated the scene of the attack for any explosives.
About 200 people attended the May 3 event, organized by the New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative. The organizers paid for 40 police officers to work security at the event. Its speakers included Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician who has been strongly critical of Islam.
The cartoon contest offered a top cash prize of $10,000 and another $2,500 prize awarded by the votes of readers of the website Brietbart.com. The contest was intended to support free speech following the Jan. 7 terrorist attacks on the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Paris attack, which killed 12 people, came in response to the magazine’s caricatures of Muhammad.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the attack “without reservation.”
“We also reiterate our view that violence in response to anti-Islam programs like the one in Garland is more insulting to our faith than any cartoon, however defamatory. Bigoted speech can never be an excuse for violence,” the organization said May 4.
One of the suspected attackers, Arizona man Elton Simpson, was previously the subject of a terrorism investigation. He was convicted in 2011 for making false statements to federal agents when he denied talking about traveling to Somalia in 2009 to engage in “violent jihad,” according to a federal indictment.
Officials suspect he was behind several Twitter messages appearing to pray that God would accept the two attackers as “mujahideen,” ABC News reported. Some analysts interpreted the messages as a pledge of loyalty to the leader of the Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in the territory it controls in Syria and Iraq. Supporters of the Islamic State praised the Texas attack on Twitter.
The second person identified as a gunman was Nadir Hamid Soofi, 34.