Garland Police Chief: FBI Memo Wouldn’t Have Changed Response
GARLAND — Officers protecting a controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest did not know about an FBI memo sent to authorities in Texas beforehand that contained information about one of two gunmen who ultimately attempted to attack the event, but the details would not have changed their response, Garland’s police chief said Monday.
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 information via email.
Bates said his department’s officer on the Joint Terrorism Task Force, to which the email was sent, was working the event and did not see the memo until after the shooting.
“No one at event command post was aware of this informational email prior to the shooting,” he said. The Joint Terrorism Task Force is a collaboration of federal and local law enforcement.
Bates did not specify whether the memo was passed on to him, but said seeing it in advance would not have made a difference because it didn’t include any specific information that Simpson was a threat to the event.
“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.
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.
Neither federal nor local law enforcement officials have released a copy of the May 3 security memo. 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.”
Zach Horn, a Dallas attorney representing the five officers, said neither he nor his clients had seen the May 3 notice from the FBI about Simpson. But, he added, “They knew they weren’t guarding a Girl Scout convention.”
The officers are members of the Texas Municipal Police Association, a union that, among other things, provides legal representation for police in officer-involved shootings.
Bates 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. About 150 people attended the event, Bates said, adding that at a typical event with that attendance level, there would have been two to four officers assigned to security.
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. (AP)