Caitlin MacNeal

Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.

Articles by Caitlin

Two days after two gunmen opened fire on law enforcement officers outside of a Muhammed cartoon contest in Texas, little is known about the two suspects killed during the attack.

News reports have identified the two suspects as Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi of Phoenix, Arizona, but law enforcement authorities have not officially acknowledged the identities of the gunmen.

Some news reports have said the men were roommates, others have said that they merely lived in the same apartment complex in Phoenix and attended the same mosque. Simpson had previously been investigated by the FBI for potential connections to jihadist terrorism, but Soofi did not seem to show signs of radicalization or violence.

Neither suspect had a particularly robust online presence, and with little information from officials about the suspects, the few fragments from family members and court documents paint an incomplete picture of the gunmen who carried out the attack.

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One of the writers for satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, the target of a deadly attack in January, said that the magazine's cartoons portraying the Prophet Muhammad are different from the contest to draw Muhammed in Texas over the weekend.

Jean-Baptiste Thoret, a Charlie Hebdo film critic, told PBS' Charle Rose that there's "absolutely no comparison possible" between the Charlie Hebdo attack and the shooting outside of the Muhammed cartoon contest held near Dallas by anti-Islam group American Freedom Defense Initiative.

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The Islamic State on Tuesday allegedly claimed responsibility for the shooting outside a Muhammed cartoon contest near Dallas through its official radio station, Agence France-Press reported.

"Two of the soldiers of the caliphate executed an attack on an art exhibit in Garland, Texas, and this exhibit was portraying negative pictures of the Prophet Mohammed," ISIL claimed, according to AFP.

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Pentagon officials on Monday assured Texas residents that upcoming military exercises in the state are not part of a plot to take over Texas, despite conspiracy theorists' concerns that the U.S. will impose martial law in the state.

Defense officials rejected the "wild speculation" about the "Jade Helm 15" exercise, which prompted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to order the Texas State Guard to oversee the exercises.

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Kristina Sitton, a lawyer who in 2010 represented one of the suspected gunmen who opened fire on an anti-Muslim event in Texas, said that the FBI had been aware of the suspect but that he "seemed pretty normal."

Elton Simpson, one of the suspected gunmen, had been previously identified by the FBI as a terrorist suspect. Simpson was charged in 2010 with lying to federal officers, according to the New York Times. The judge ruled that there was not proof that Simpson was plotting a terrorist attack.

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The two gunmen who attacked a Muhammed cartoon contest near Dallas on Sunday used assault rifles to open fire on two officers parked at an entrance to the event venue but were quickly shot dead by a police officer, according to Garland police spokesman Joe Harn.

During a Monday morning press conference on the shooting, Harn (pictured above) added new details that painted a dramatic picture of officers suddenly coming under fire but managing to thwart what police said was an intended attack on the 200 people attending the event inside, which was sponsored by the anti-Islam group American Freedom Defense Initiative. The group, co-founded by Pamela Geller, is listed as an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Two officers - a Garland police officer and an unarmed security officer for the local school district - were sitting in a patrol car blocking the entrance to the event. When the suspects arrived in their vehicle, the two officers began to step out of the patrol car, according to Harn.

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