There are about 230,000 people living in Garland Texas, but only one true hero. That word, most often overused to describe any media contortion of fame, does in fact fit this unknown hero like a glove.
He saved countless lives and did so with nothing more than a revolver, while facing down two terrorists who had planned to kill and kill. They didn’t. A traffic cop working overtime thwarted their plan.
The men, Elton Simpson, 30, and Nadir Hamid Soofi, 34, lived in the same apartment complex in Phoenix, but drove to the Dallas suburb armed with automatic weapons and body armor. Yet somehow, they were still outmatched.
According to reports on local TV stations, the man who shot them was more than just a traffic cop; he was also an experienced hostage negotiator. Thank God for that.
The Garland shooting is opening deep wounds across America over art, activism and tolerance in the era of screaming and frightening headlines concerning fundamentalist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. Was the exhibit of Mohammed cartoons a deliberate attempt to harass or even bait Muslims under the guise of “free speech?” Of course it was! Only a fool or a bigot would see it as anything else.
But in America, it’s OK to be a bigot, and that’s what was really on display at the Curtis Culwell Center in this Dallas suburb—pushing the limits of free speech as afforded by our Constitution to even the most offensive and obnoxious among us. And it almost worked. The event was almost over when Simpson and Soofi showed up prepared to kill as many of the 200 attendees as possible. They took the bait.
It’s hard to argue that Simpson and Soofi didn’t get what they deserved. They showed up to kill to protect their convictions and didn’t realize that in America, what we protect is speech—even if it’s heartless and offensive. Our grandest first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, taught us “no one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” Simpson and Soofi couldn’t relate to that kind of thinking. Then again, they didn’t seem like the types who would take advice from a woman.
There are many bad actions and bad actors in this story out of Garland Texas, but none are worse than the men who went there to kill. As more information is revealed about these two Arizonans who shared both an apartment complex and a hateful ideology, we realize how wrong they were.
But there is something that is also very right and most timely about this story. It’s about the actions of that one lone off-duty cop and his ability to do what even seasoned veterans are calling masterful. Outmatched, first he faced down and then took down the two terrorists “loaded to the gills” and did so during a time in America when police are under fire themselves.
We don’t know his name yet and maybe it’s better that way. Leave on his mask like a kind of superhero, because after Baltimore, and Sanford, and Cleveland, and Staten Island, and Charleston, we need a hero who wears a badge—desperately.