When two attackers fired on a security guard outside a provocative art show featuring cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, they didn’t know that an entire squadron of the Garland, Texas SWAT were laying in wait. And yes, that’s a Punisher Skull atop the Texas state flag on the team’s patch.
Garland SWAT posing with a right wing Dutch politician and speaker, who is on the top of Al Qaeda’s hit list, before the attack occurred.
The attack started when two men stepped out of a vehicle in front of the Curtis Culwell Center where the “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” – dubbed as a freedom of speech art show with a $10,000 prize – was being held. They immediately opened fire on a Garland Independent School District security guard who sustained non-life threatening wounds.
Moments later, both individuals were engaged by a handgun-toting off-duty traffic policeman who was working as a security guard for the event. Both attackers were reportedly wearing body armor and carrying assault rifles.
“The first suspect was shot immediately,” Garland Mayor Douglas Athas told CNN. “The second suspect was wounded and reached for his backpack. He was shot again.”
Pictures coming out from the event, both before and after the shooting, show extremely well equipped soldiers draped in desert camouflage, hands-free communications gear, body armor and tactical chest rigs full of spare ammunition and expendables, along with tricked out AR-15 rifles. The team, which looked more like Delta Force unit than a local SWAT team, were wearing patches with the Punisher Skull emblazoned over the Texas flag.
The skull is a comic book symbol from the Punisher series, made even more famous in modern military circles after its use by “American Sniper” Chris Kyle’s SEAL unit in Iraq. Kyle, a Texas native, used the logo for his various tactical training entities after he retired from the SEALs.
Considering the nature of the event, the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier this year in Paris, along with the fact that the property where the event was being held appears to have been fortified with tactical forces to a truly impressive level, it looked more like a trap than an exercise in free speech. Regardless of the intense security situation, the Chief of Police stated that there were no direct or credible threats towards the highly controversial event before it took place.
At this time, there are reports that the dead suspects may have had some sort of affiliation with the Islamic State. The two men are currently identified as Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, roommates in an Phoenix, Arizona apartment. According to CNN, Simpson was convicted of making a false statement involving terrorism and sentenced to three years of probation. Little is known about Nadir Soofi at this time.
It may take some time to ascertain whether or not this was a lone wolf-type attack or one that was directly planned and funded by the Islamic State. If it was the latter, it could represent a new era in escalation when it comes to the Islamic State’s attempts to attack the US homeland. Although this is possible, it remains unlikely based on past patterns of similar attacks in the US and Canada, which have often showed the assailants were largely self-motivated, taught, and funded.
After the shooting took place, event goers, which were said to include about 200 people, were sequestered in the main auditorium, away from exterior walls. This was because, at the time, police didn’t know if the shooter’s vehicle was rigged as a bomb. Eventually, the attendees were split up and moved by bus to other locations.
In this case, the high-security plan at the event worked, as the shooters never made it past an external security perimeter. Still, even if they made it inside, they wouldn’t have lasted long against what looks like one of the most militarized SWAT units in the country.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com