Police not warned in advance of Garland gunmen at Wilders event

Joe Harn Garland PD
Joe Harn, Garland Police Department, discusses a shooting in front of an event attended by PVV leader Geert Wilders. May 4, 2015.Joe Harn, Garland Police Department, discusses a shooting in front of an event attended by PVV leader Geert Wilders. May 4, 2015.

With reporting by Zack Newmark.

Garland, Texas, police officers were not warned in advance of the men who started shooting outside the prophet Muhammed caricature contest attended by Dutch politician Geert Wilders. The conference center in the Dallas suburb is still an active crime scene. Identities of the shooters were not released by police officials.

Harn said the police believed the knew who the perpetrators were, but would not release further information about their identities. One of the men was reportedly Elton Simpson, a prior terrorism suspect based in Phoenix, Arizona.

The police were not made aware of specific threats against the event. "We are aware of [threatening] Tweets, but we don't know that it was those men that put that out." Harn also added that event organizers adhered to police recommendations about security measures.

"The plan we put together, there's no doubt it saved lives," Joe Harn of the Garland police said during the press conference. Investigators "collect intel" on a daily basis to keep Garland safe, he said.

During the event, a dark-colored vehicle approached an entrance to the center blocked by a police car.  Two men, both having an assault rifle, directed fire at the police car. "As that car stopped, both [suspects] started getting out of their car," with automatic weapons and opened fire. "Our officer started shooting back," as his colleague, an unarmed security guard, was struck in the leg.

"The first officer put down both suspects," Harn said. He is a traffic cop who used his duty pistol when returning fire.

“He did what he was trained to do, and under the fire he was put under, he did a very good job. And, probably saved lives," Harn added. "We think their strategy was to get to the event center, get into the center and they were not able to get past that outer perimeter we set up as part of the security,” Harn concluded.

"He's a tenured officer, I don't know how many years, but with what he was faced with, his reaction and that they had automatic weapons, he did a good job," Harn said.

The bomb unit at the scene conducted at least two detonations: one to open trunk, another one because of the luggage deemed suspicious at the time. There were no bombs found by the police at the scene.

"We are not sure how they got here," he commented on a question about the men's intentions of coming to Garland. The assumption, Harn said, is that they drove to Texas, considering the packed suitcases in the trunk of their car.

One person was detained at the scene, and interviewed by investigators. It was clear that he was not a part of the incident, so he was released shortly after, Harn added.