GARLAND, Texas—The Garland Police Department didn’t necessarily anticipate a shooting to occur at the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s first “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest Sunday evening at this Dallas suburb’s Curtis Culwell Center. But Police Officer Joe Harn says his department, aware of “what the event represented,” had beefed up its detail for the night, preparing itself for a scenario in which its presence might be needed.
It would be.
According to Harn, two armed adult males arrived at the Culwell Center shortly before the event’s scheduled 7 p.m. end, exited their shared vehicle and opened fire on an unarmed Garland Independent School District security guard working the parking lot. That guard, Bruce Joiner, 58, was shot in the ankle before Garland police returned fire on the gunmen, killing both.
Joiner was rushed to an area hospital, where his injuries were treated. He was released from the hospital within two hours, according to reports.
Addressing media at a staging area just outside an established perimeter surrounding the Culwell Center shortly before 11 p.m. on Sunday, Harn described his department as “ready” for an attack to occur at what he called “a Muhammad art event,” at which the AFDI commissioned and displayed a reported 350 drawings that competed for $12,500 in prize money. This preparation, he said was due to “what we have witnessed at past [similar] events around the world.”
Displaying images of the prophet Muhammad are prohibited within Islam.
Harn’s position—that the police presence merely was a safety precaution by Garland Police—stands in stark contrast to AFDI president Pamela Geller’s claim that her organization had independently paid police $10,000 to secure the event.
Regardless, the added police presence, which included Harn himself, helped contain the situation Sunday before any more casualties could occur.
Immediately following the shooting, Garland police, with assistance from neighboring police departments, locked down the AFDI event and established a roughly five-block perimeter surrounding the Culwell Center, based on concerns that the gunmen’s car might contain explosives. Eventually, using Garland school district buses, they would evacuate the event’s attendees to a secure administrative building nearby. At the same time, officers evacuated area businesses. At the time of this writing, the FBI and ATF were helping Garland police check that vehicle for explosives, using “a robot and other devices,” while maintaining the established perimeter.
Neither of the gunmen has been identified. Authorities said only that they were adult males. Their bodies remained at the scene, and Harn said his department had no plans to attempt to identify them until their car was deemed secure. Harn added that he was aware of a Twitter account that earlier in the day had claimed responsibility for a forthcoming “Texas Attack,” but said that any attempt to identify the shooters would be delayed by ongoing activities at the site.
Some reporters attending the media address and claiming to work with Breitbart News Network pressed Harn on why he believed extra security was needed at the event in the first place.
“Because of free speech,” one of the reporters suggested.
“I didn’t see anything about free speech in there,” Harn replied.
In January at Culwell, a fundraiser to build a center dedicated to teaching Muslims how to combat negative depictions of their faith drew crowds of protesters. Some who picketed the event said Islamic beliefs pose a threat to the American way of life. Counter-protesters also attended, urging understanding and cooperation. That event also saw organizers boosting security at Culwell.