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 worshipped.
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 claimed responsibility for the attack.
In a radio broadcast, ISIS referred to Simpson and Soofi as two of its “soldiers” and and threatened more attacks. But it’s unclear whether the terror group in Iraq and Syria actually had contact with Simpson or Soofi, who both lived in Phoenix.
Moments before the shootout, Simpson posted an ominous tweet with the hashtag #texasattack: “May Allah accept us as mujahideen.”
The tweet also said Simpson 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 probably 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 same 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.”
Read more: CNN
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