‘We Were Terrified’: Texas Rabbi and Worshipers Detail Hostage Drama | Texas
The rabbi and congregants at the Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, began offering accounts of their partially live-streamed 11 a.m. ordeal at the hands of British hostage taker Malik Faisal Akram.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker said SCS he first greeted the stranger, who was staying at a homeless shelter in Dallas, and made him a cup of tea. He said the man was not threatening or suspicious at first.
“Part of his story didn’t quite fit, so I was a little curious, but that’s not necessarily a rare thing,” the rabbi said. Cytron-Walker said he invited Akram to join the morning service.
As he turned his back to face the direction of Jerusalem, he heard the click of a pistol. During a period of silent prayer that followed, Rabbi told the New York Times, he approached Akram and told him he was welcome for full service.
Akram then revealed a gun and pointed it at the rabbi, sparking drama that he said was tense and terrifying. “It was a lot of conversation, trying to keep things calm, trying to help him see us as human beings and listening to him rant,” he said. “Everyone, for the most part, was able to stay calm.”
Akram took four people hostage, including the rabbi, with some of his comments broadcast live to distant worshipers.
“I am armed. I’m full of ammunition,” Akram told someone he called his nephew. “Guess what, I’m going to die. He was also heard to say, “I am not a criminal.
The FBI said in a statement that Akram “has spoken repeatedly about a convicted terrorist who is serving an 86-year prison sentence in the United States” – an apparent reference to Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist serving a sentence. 86 years after being found guilty. of attempted murder during an assault on American soldiers in Afghanistan.
Akram ultimately did not harm the hostages, the rabbi told CBS, but they were threatened throughout their ordeal. But the situation grew tense over time. Jeffrey R Cohen, another man held hostage, described the ordeal on Facebook. “First, we escaped. We weren’t freed or freed,” Cohen said.
Cohen described how they spoke to the shooter while in captivity. He later told The Times that the four hostages were kept together and had been able to establish enough of a good rapport with Akram that one of them was released.
Yet as the situation dragged on, Cohen said the shooter eventually told the other three to get on their knees. But as the shooter was about to sit down, the rabbi told them to run according to an escape plan they had drawn up.
“During the last hour of our hostage crisis, the shooter has become increasingly belligerent and threatening,” Cytron-Walker said in a statement Sunday. “There was a lot more screaming, a lot more threats,” he told The Times.
The rabbi said he devised a plan to take a break. They headed for an exit. When the pizza was delivered, he suggested another hostage go get it. Eventually, all were within 20 feet of the exit.
“We were terrified,” Cytron-Walker told CBS. “And when I saw an opportunity where he wasn’t in a good position, I made sure that the two gentlemen who were still with me, that they were ready to go.”
“The exit was not too far. I told them to leave. I threw a chair at the shooter and headed for the door,” he said. “And the three of us were able to get out without even a shot being fired.”
After the hostages left the building, Akram briefly followed before returning inside the building. Law enforcement then moved to another part of the building before setting off an explosive device to enter. Akram died amid the gunfire.
Cytron-Walker credited security training with the hostages’ successful escape. “It’s a horrible thing that this kind of education is needed in our society today,” he told the newspaper. “But we don’t always manage to face the reality that we want. We have to face reality as it exists.