Garland shooting: What we know about Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi
Whatever spurred Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi to drive across two states to shoot up a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest is lost on their families, their neighbors and the place they had worshiped.
One was a described as “gentle person,” albeit one who had been convicted of a terror-related charge and supported an ISIS propagandist.
The other was a father who had “put his son above everything” — until the day he and his roommate opened fire at the event in Garland, Texas, wounding a security guard before police shot and killed the gunmen.
Here’s what we know about the attackers:
He may have been an ISIS supporter
While U.S. authorities investigate whether Sunday’s shooting has any link to international terrorism, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. In a radio broadcast, the terror group referred to Simpson and Soofi as two of its “soldiers” and “brothers,” and threatened more attacks.
Moments before the attack, Simpson posted an ominous tweet with the hashtag #texasattack: “May Allah accept us as mujahideen.”
The tweet also said he and his fellow attacker had pledged allegiance to “Amirul Mu’mineen,” which means “the leader of the faithful.” CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank said that likely refers to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.
Earlier, Simpson had asked his readers on Twitter to follow an ISIS propagandist.
After the shooting, the propagandist tweeted: “Allahu Akbar!!!! 2 of our brothers just opened fire.”
Both Twitter accounts have been deactivated.
He has a rap sheet
In 2011, Simpson was convicted of making a false statement involving international and domestic terrorism.
Prosecutors said he told FBI agents that he had not discussed traveling to Somalia to engage in “violent jihad” — when, in fact, he had, according to an indictment.
Simpson was sentenced to three years of probation, court records show.
He had ‘a good demeanor’
That’s according to the president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, where both Simpson and Soofi worshiped.
Usama Shami said Simpson came regularly until around 2010 or 2011, about the time the FBI arrested him on the false statement charges. Soofi came less frequently
Simpson “was a gentle person,” Shami said. “He always had a good attitude, a good demeanor.”
Like others at the mosque, Shami said he was stunned to hear about the attack Sunday night.
“They didn’t show any signs of radicalization or any signs of even thinking about those things in that manner,” he said. “So when that happens, it just shocks you. How good did you know these people, that’s the question that people ask themselves.”
His family is stunned, too
On top of their grief, Simpson’s relatives are struggling to come to terms with his involvement in the attack.
“We send our prayers to everyone affected by this act of senseless violence, especially the security guard who was injured in the line of duty,” Simpson’s family said in a statement.
“We are sure many people in this country are curious to know if we had any idea of Elton’s plans. To that we say, without question, we did not. Just like everyone in our beautiful country, we are struggling to understand how this could happen. … We are heartbroken and in a state of deep shock as we grieve.”
He and Soofi were roommates
Their neighbors in Phoenix said they had no clue about what they were going to do.
Ariel Whitlock was actually about to buy a car from Simpson. She was horrified to see the same black Chevrolet Cobalt, damaged from the attack, on the news.
“I’m getting goose bumps thinking about it right now just because I wanted to buy that car,” she told CNN’s Kyung Lah. “On the news, I see it, it’s just blown up. I’m like, ‘I was going to purchase that car.'”
Whitlock said she’s sickened by the possibility that, had she bought the car, the money could have gone to fund an attack.
“Maybe he’s just gonna go plot something and you’re giving the money to help him go plot something. It’s like how I feel now, but it’s just crazy.”
He died near where he was born
Soofi was born in Garland and spent the first three years of his life there, his mother said, according to The Dallas Morning News.
“He was raised in a normal American fashion,” Sharon Soofi said. “Yes, he was very politically involved with the Middle East. Just aware of what’s going on. I don’t know if something snapped or if Elton Simpson was just working on him.”
Sharon Soofi also said her son had an 8-year-old boy whom he adored.
“He put his son above everything,” she said. “The hard thing to comprehend is why he would do this and leave an 8-year-old son behind.”
He went to a prestigious private school
Soofi’s father is Pakistani, and his mother is American, a source with knowledge of the family told CNN.
After his parents divorced, Soofi and his brother moved to Pakistan to live with their father and stepmother, the source said.
In the 1990s, Soofi attended a prestigious private school in Islamabad. The source added that the boys left abruptly at some point, ostensibly to go live with their mother.
He wasn’t on the FBI’s radar
Unlike Simpson, who had been convicted of a terror-related charge, Soofi was relatively unknown to federal investigators, a law enforcement official told CNN.
Authorities knew of no indication the two planned to launch Sunday’s attack, another law enforcement official said.
He had asked for forgiveness
Soofi’s Facebook page reveals strong opinions, but no call to violence.
But a note from four years ago shows asks Allah for forgiveness for every sin — both intentional and unintentional.
He was a helpful neighbor
Tim Rains remembers Soofi helping him when he had a heart condition about a year ago.
As Rains was coming home, he collapsed on a stairwell. Soofi noticed.
“He seen all that, and he came over and offered me help,” Rains said.
So how does he reconcile the notion that his neighbor also tried to shoot people in Texas?
“Oh, it’s easy, everybody has a good side to them,” Rains said. “If you see somebody hurting like that, you’re going to help them. I think he went to Texas to shoot people for a reason.”
By Holly Yan
CNN’s Kyung Lah in Phoenix and Sophia Saifi in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report, as did CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet, AnneClaire Stapleton, Salim Essaid. Merieme Arif and Sam Stringer in Atlanta.