FBI Searches Phoenix Home Connected To Garland, Texas, Gunman

FBI Searches Phoenix Home Connected To Garland, Texas, Gunman

2:02am May 05, 2015

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There wasn't a specific warning about last night's attack near Dallas, but there were certainly warning signs. The American Freedom Defense Initiative is an incendiary group. A Dutch politician known for anti-Islamic rhetoric was speaking. There was a contest for drawing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. We also learned today that one of the men who carried out the attack and was killed by police was known to the FBI and had a record. And sources tell NPR that just last Friday, federal law enforcement issued a bulletin alerting local agencies to be on the lookout for him. NPR's Wade Goodwyn has more from Dallas.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Sunday night at the Curtis Cullwell Center in Garland, Texas, just east of Dallas, 40 police officers, security guards and even members of the local SWAT team waited for any trouble. The first line of defense at the main entrance was not exactly formidable.


JOE HARN: There was a police car there blocking that entrance.

GOODWYN: One police car blocking the driveway with an off-duty policeman and an unarmed security guard sitting inside. Garland police officer Joe Harn described what happened next as a vehicle carrying two men pulled up next to the police car.


HARN: And two men exited the dark-colored sedan; both of them had assault rifles, came around the back of the car and started shooting at the police car.

GOODWYN: The assailants were also wearing body armor. The security guard was hit immediately as he exited the police car, but in a display of cool under fire and expert marksmanship, the Garland officer - a traffic cop - pulled his revolver, despite a hail of incoming automatic weapons fire from both men. He dropped the shooters with his pistol - first one and then the other.


HARN: Both of those men died there on the street next to their car.

GOODWYN: Officials believe the two men intended to shoot their way inside the center and take as many lives of the 200 guests as they could. The fact that they couldn't get past the first line of defense may indicate the assailants were not highly trained. One has been identified - 30-year-old Elton Simpson who lived in Phoenix, Ariz. He was well known to the FBI. He'd been convicted in federal court in 2010 for lying to federal agents. He'd been recorded making plans to travel to Somalia and lied about it. He was given probation. Lawyer Kristina Sitton represented Simpson.

KRISTINA SITTON: I was very surprised, very surprised.

GOODWYN: Sitton says the young man she came to know for years was gentle.

SITTON: He never came across to me as being violent in any way. He was always kind and respectful. He just looked like a young kid to me who was just saying things - all talk no action sort.

GOODWYN: Sitton says one thing did stand out about Elton Simpson. He was extremely dedicated to Islam.

SITTON: Oh, he was very, very devoted religiously. He actively attempted to engage myself and my staff in conversation about why we wouldn't convert.

GOODWYN: Sitton believes the draw Muhammad event was so religiously provocative that Simpson must have snapped. It's the only explanation she has. Multiple media outlets are identifying the second gunman as Nadir Hamid Soofi, who also lived in Phoenix. The investigation into how they planned and carried out their attack has just begun. Wade Goodwyn NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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