Reports suggest the pair were carrying explosives at the time, and another two bombs were discovered nearby.
The building and surrounding area was placed on lockdown by a SWAT team with around 100 attendees still inside. Those inside started to sing patriotic songs, including the national anthem and God Bless America, and said a prayer after one woman pulled out an American flag form her bag.
Reports of the incident began to develop shortly before 7 p.m., when the event had been scheduled to conclude. A speaker had finished his presentation shortly after 6:30 p.m. Throughout the event, there had been no notable protests, despite its controversial nature.
Opponents had said the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest on Sunday would be an attack on Islam. But its organizers said they were simply exercising their right of expression.
The event was the center of controversy since Garland ISD agreed to rent out the Culwell Center. The decision to book the event came a little more than a week after Islamic militants in France killed 12 people at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The organizers said they were exercising their freedom of expression. The district’s decision drew criticism from critics and Islamic groups who said the event was an attack on Islam.
The New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative was hosting a contest that would award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad at the venue. Caricatures of the Islamic prophet are considered offensive by many Muslims.
The American Freedom Defense Initiative paid an additional $10,000 upfront for 40 officers to work security at the event. The group’s president, Pamela Gellar, called it “the high cost of freedom.”
The two men pulled up in a vehicle and shot a Garland ISD security officer. The men were fatally shot by Garland police, and their bodies remain on the street outside the events center.
School Board President Rick Lambert rebuffed the criticism of the district, saying “the Culwell Center is available for rental as long as you comply with the law.”
Garland had dueling protests during a “Stand With the Prophet in Honor and Respect” in January. Some protesters called for peace and understanding, while the other group argued that Muslims’ beliefs posed a threat to the American way of life.