Two gunmen were shot and killed in a Dallas suburb after they opened fire at an art exhibit event on Sunday night. The men began shooting outside the “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” at the Culwell Event Center in North Garland, and were shot and killed by police who were aiding with security at the event, authorities have told CNN.
The event was a competition to illustrate the Prophet Muhammad, and was attended by approximately 200 people. Sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, the contest received more than 350 submissions and offered a grand prize of $10,000.
Attendees from the event were evacuated, along with people from surrounding businesses, while the area was blocked off. FBI and local police began a sweep for explosives as well as a search of the vehicle driven by the gunmen.
No details have been released about the shooters, including their motive or possible religious affiliation. There is a belief by many Muslims that drawings or any other depictions of the Prophet Muhammad are blasphemous.
The event’s sponsor, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, has been labeled an anti-Muslim group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate groups. AFDI president Pamela Geller posted an article on her personal website after the shooting, writing, “This is a war on free speech. What are we going to do? Are we going to surrender to these monsters?”
The keynote speaker was Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician placed on al Qaeda’s hit list for a film he uploaded to the Internet in 2008 that brought together terrorist images with verses from the Koran.
Wilders tweeted about the shooting as it was happening, following with a second message a couple of hours later to add, “Thank God the heroes of SWAT-team prevented the worst.”