Two men who opened fire Sunday outside of an event in Garland, Texas attended by Geert Wilders, a Dutch lawmaker and outspoken critic of radical Islam, have been killed by police.
“As today’s Muhammad Art Exhibit event at the Curtis Culwell Center was coming to an end, two males drove up to the front of the building in a car. Both males were armed and began shooting at a Garland ISD security officer,” reads a statement on the city of Garland’s Facebook page. The shooting occurred at around 7 p.m. local time.
“Garland Police officers engaged the gunmen, who were both shot and killed,” the statement reads, adding that the security guard’s injuries are not life threatening.
“Police suspect the vehicle may contain an incendiary device and the bomb squad is on the scene,” according to the city. Nearby businesses were evacuated. At around midnight, authorities detonated a device to help detect whether any bombs were inside the shooters’ vehicle.
Sunday’s event was hosted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group led by Islam critic Pamela Geller. Wilders, who is head of the Party for Freedom, tweeted after the shooting that he had just left the venue.
Shots fired at Garland Mohammed cartoon free speech event. I just left the building after speeching. #garlandshooting
— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) May 4, 2015
Wilders and Geller presented a $12,500 check to Bosch Fawstin, the winner of the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s first inaugural “Draw the Prophet” contest.
Geller’s group developed the idea of the Muhammad Art Exhibit as a response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris earlier this year. Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine, had published cartoons mocking Muhammad.Two Islamist radicals stormed the publication’s headquarters and opened fire on employees during an editorial meeting.
SWAT inside confirms one officer shot & transported, 2 suspects shot, possible explosives outside pic.twitter.com/QKZpOQjXFz
— Gabriel Roxas (@cbs11gabriel) May 4, 2015
Tom Trento, of the group United West, was interviewing attendees at Sunday’s event when the shooting occurred. A woman Trento was interviewing said, “OK, shots just got fired.”
“The security people are running like crazy outside,” said Trento. “Somebody said — we have no idea — shots fired outside.”
An associate of Trento’s then confirmed with police that officers fired shots.
The building was put on lockdown and attendees were ushered to a more secure part of the building.
Though the gunmen have not been identified, Twitter users keyed in on an account that made reference to a Texas shooting before the one in Garland took place.
The account, which included numerous links in support of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has since been suspended. Other tweets from that user indicate that he is a Muslim convert.
SITE, a terrorism monitoring group, identified other ISIS affiliates who referenced the shooting.
Wilders, 51, attended several other events after arriving in the U.S. earlier this week. Iowa U.S. Rep. Steve King invited the politician to attend events in Washington D.C.
Wilders’ travel to the U.S. was condemned by Congress’ two Muslim lawmakers, Minnesota U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and Indiana U.S. Rep. Andre Carson. (RELATED: Muslim Lawmakers Want To Block Geert Wilders From Entering The US)
They sent a joint letter to John Kerry and Jeh Johnson requesting that Wilders be blocked from entering the U.S. Both Democratic lawmakers claimed that Wilders is Islamophobic and spews hate speech.
Garland’s Curtis Caldwell Center was the site of January’s Stand With the Prophet in Honor and Respect conference. The event attracted protesters but no acts of violence.
If Sunday’s incident proves to have been aimed at Wilders, it would closely resemble an attack that took place on Feb. 14 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
A Muslim ex-convict opened fire on a book store where a free speech event attended by Swedish artist Lars Vilks. One attendee was killed and three police officers were injured. The gunman was later killed in a shootout with police.
Like Wilders, Vilks has received numerous other death threats.
During his 15-minute speech, Wilders said that the purpose of the event was to “stand for freedom of speech.”
“I know how dangerous it is to speak the truth about Islam,” Wilders said, calling Islam “the religion of death.”
“I am on death lists from al Qaeda, from the Pakistani Taliban, from terrorists from the Islamic State. Only because I tell people the truth about Islam.”
“Unlike jihadis, cartoons do not kill people,” he told the audience. “Cartoons do not kill jihadis. But jihadis kill cartoonists. And that is a huge difference which we should never forget.”
After the shooting Geller wrote on her website: “This is a war. This is war on free speech. What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?”
This post has been updated with new information.