Gunman's family and friends react; Elton Simpson involved in FBI terror investigation

FOX 10 has learned more about Elton Simpson, who has been on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's radar since 2006, and was connected with a federal terror investigation.

Simpson's family and those who knew him as a young basketball player are speaking out.

Family members and old friends of Elton Simpson are all expressing how stunned and saddened they are, by the act of violence Simpson is accused of carrying out.

All of them said they saw no indication that Simpson had become, or would become a religious extremist.

Federal Court records from just five years ago paint him as a potential terrorist who talked about carrying out an attack.

The Prescott Daily Courier is reporting that Simpson played on Yavapai College's Basketball team in 2003. A former teammate recalls the Simpson he knew when they were teens.

"He was a good kid, he was a great person in my eyes, Elton wouldn't harm a fly, but that was so many years ago. We're so far removed, we're in our 30's now, and I understand life changes for a lot of people," said Keion Kindred.

But he says, no one imagined Simpson's future would lead him to open fire at an anti-Islam event.

"Just completely in shock wondering where did he go wrong, where did this come from," said Kindred.

The FBI paints a different picture of Simpson. According to documents, he was the subject of a terror investigation that began in 2006. An informant recorded hundreds of hours of conversations with Simpson in which he talked about violent Jihad's. In one recording he said, "It's time to go to Somalia brother, it's time. I'm tellin you man, we gonna make it to the battlefield, it's time to roll."

"I always thought of him as very harmless," said Kristina Sutton, Simpson's former attorney.

Kristina Sutton was his attorney in the federal case. She says he was a devout Muslim, but the terrorist charges were exaggerated.

"He was very devout, he would often leave meetings to go pray, he wouldn't shake my hand as part of his faith. He actively tried to convert me and my staff to Islam," she said.

Ultimately a judge did not find enough evidence to charge Simpson with terrorism. 

His family members declined to comment to FOX 10 at their Glendale home. "They'll be no statements made today," said a family member.

They did release 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." The statement went on to say they do not condone violence, and they send prayers to the security guard that was hurt in the shooting.
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