GARLAND, Texas (AP) — The Texas police department protecting a controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest wouldn’t have changed their response even if they had known about an FBI memo sent to local authorities about one of the gunmen beforehand, the department’s chief said Monday.
Garland Police Chief Mitch Bates told reporters no one at the law enforcement command post set up to monitor the event was aware that the FBI had sent a memo about Elton Simpson hours before the May 3 shooting, even though he acknowledged that a Garland police officer sits on the local terrorism task force that he says received the bulletin.
But he said the memo didn’t specifically label Simpson a threat.
“We had no information from the FBI or anyone else that Elton Simpson posed a threat to our event,” Bates said.
FBI Director James Comey revealed the memo last week, saying it included Simpson’s picture and other information, “even though we didn’t have reason to believe that he was going to attack the event. In fact, we didn’t have reason to believe that he had left Phoenix,” Comey said.
Bates said the memo was sent to the local Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is a collaboration of federal and local law enforcement and includes a Garland police officer. Bates did not specify whether the memo was passed onto him.
“Please note that the contents of that email would not have prevented this shooting, nor would it have changed the law enforcement response in any fashion,” he added.
Simpson and the other gunman, Nadir Soofi, were shot and killed by officers outside the contest of drawings of the Prophet Muhammad.
One school security guard was wounded.
Bates hailed the five officers who took down Simpson and Soofi as “heroes.”
He said about 40 Garland police officers were protecting the event along with members of federal and state law enforcement agencies, after months of preparation for the event.
Drawings such as the ones featured at the event are deemed insulting to many followers of Islam and have sparked violence around the world. Mainstream Islamic tradition holds that any physical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad is blasphemous.
No one attending the event was injured.