WASHINGTON — Federal investigators learned several hours before a provocative cartoon contest in Texas that a man under investigation for extremist activities might show up and alerted local authorities there, but had no indication that he planned to attack the event, FBI Director James Comey said Thursday.
The information about Elton Simpson was developed about three hours before the contest, which the FBI had already identified as a potential target for violence because it involved cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Simpson and his roommate were shot dead before they were able to kill anyone.
Simpson, previously convicted as part of a terrorism-related investigation, had come under new federal scrutiny in recent months related to alarming online statements about the Islamic State. When the FBI learned that he could be heading toward the event, the agency sent an intelligence bulletin to police in Garland, including a 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.