On May 3rd 2015, two armed men, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, opened fire outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, injuring security guard Bruce Joiner. Nearby local police officers returned fire, killing both gunmen before they were able to make their way into the venue. The attack marked the first terrorist attack attributed to the Islamic State in the United States.
The event, hosted by the New York based American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDA), offered a $10,000 reward for the best cartoon depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The event featured speeches by Pamela Geller, president of AFDI, as well as Gert Wilders, a Dutch lawmaker known for his outspoken criticism of Islam. Wilders was reportedly on a Al Qaeda hit list prior to the Garland event. The event was planned in order to make a stand for free speech in response to outcries and recent terrorist attacks such as the January 2015 attack in France, in which 12 people were killed by gunmen in an attack targeting the office of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had lampooned Islam in their own depictions of Muhammad. In February 2015, a similar deadly attack took place in Copenhagen, Denmark targeting an art contest very much like the Garland Texas event.
Shockingly, it was revealed that the FBI had known the primary suspect, Elton Simpson, for nearly ten years prior to the 2015 attack. However, one federal official familiar with the investigation told the Associated Press that the agency did not have any indication that Simpson was plotting the attack.
The FBI investigation into Simpson began in Phoenix in 2006 because federal investigators believed he was associated with Hassan Abu Jihaad, a former U.S. Navy sailor who had been arrested in Phoenix and was ultimately convicted of terrorism-related charges.
Agents elicited the help of an informant who befriended Simpson and met with him three to four times per week, according to court records. The informant, Dabla Deng, a Sudanese immigrant, had been working as an FBI informant since 2005 and was instructed to tell Simpson he was a recent convert to the religion. Over the next few years, Deng would tape his conversations with Simpson with a hidden recording device accumulating more than 1,500 hours of conversations.