One of the two men fatally shot Sunday after opening fire outside of a Garland, Texas, Muhammad cartoon exhibit was investigated as early as 2006 for his association with suspected terrorists.
Elton Simpson, who the FBI believes was involved in the failed attack, was also indicted in 2010 for making a false statement to the FBI, though he avoided a harsher sentence of making a false statement regarding “international terrorism.”
FBI officials told ABC News that Simpson and his roommate traveled from Phoenix in an attempt to carry out an attack at an event held by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. The group was holding a “draw the Prophet” contest. Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician who is critical of radical Islam, was the keynote speaker.
— John Schindler (@20committee) May 4, 2015
After the event ended, Simpson and his roommate drove up to the venue where they opened fire on a security guard. Garland police opened fire, killing both men. The security guard suffered only minor injuries. The FBI and a bomb squad helped clear the suspects’ vehicle of any possible explosives. According to ABC, the FBI is also searching the apartment of Simpson and his roommate for any such devices. (RELATED: Shooting In Texas Outside Of Muslim Cartoon Event Attended By Geert Wilders)
According to ABC, authorities believe that Simpson was the user behind a now-suspended Twitter account from which a message was sent less than a half-hour before Sunday’s incident.
The accounts tweets indicated that he is a convert to Islam.
He also made reference to the Wilders event, linking to an article about it published by Breitbart News last month.
The FBI began investigating Simpson in 2006 because of his association with a man who was believed to be setting up a terrorist cell, according to a 2011 filing by U.S. District Court for Arizona judge Mary Murguia.
Simpson was indicted on Jan. 13, 2010, for “knowingly and willingly making a materially false statement” to the FBI.
“The indictment specified that on or about January 7, 2010, the Defendant falsely stated to special agents of the FBI that he had not discussed traveling to Somalia, when in fact he had discussed with others traveling to Somalia for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad,” the document reads.
The court document describes that on July 31, 2007, Simpson told an FBI informant that Allah loves individuals who are “out there fighting [non-Muslims].”
“If you get shot, or you get killed, it’s [heaven] straight away,” Simpson told the informant, adding: “[Heaven] that’s what we here for…so why not take that route?”
Simpson also complained to the informant: “they trying to bring democracy over there man, they’re trying to make them live by man-made laws, not by Allah’s laws. That’s why they get fought. You try to make us become slaves to man? No we slave to Allah, we going to fight you to the death.”
Speaking to the same informant on May 29, 2009, Simpson said “it’s time to go to Somalia, brother.”
“We know plenty of brothers from Somalia,” Simpson added. “It’s time. I’m tellin‘ you man. We gonna make it to the battlefield…it’s time to roll.”
Simpson was slapped with a charge of making a false statement because he told FBI investigators that he never spoke of traveling to Somalia. The crime is punishable by up to five years in prison.
But Simpson avoided the enhanced charge of making a false statement in regards to international terrorism. That charge is punishable by up to eight years in prison.
“The problem, however, is that the Government has not established with the requisite level of proof, that the Defendant’s potential travel to Somalia (and his false statement about his discussions regarding his travels) was sufficiently ‘related’ to international terrorism,” U.S. District Court judge Mary Murguia wrote in her decision.
“Rather, the Government missed several steps to meeting its burden for establishing this charge. As a result, the Court cannot find the Defendant eligible for the sentence enhancement.”