AP

Texas rabbi: Captor grew “belligerent” late in standoff

Jan 16, 2022, 6:41 PM | Updated: Dec 29, 2022, 11:48 am

Law enforcement process the scene in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Sunday, Jan. ...

Law enforcement process the scene in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. A man held hostages for more than 10 hours Saturday inside the temple. The hostages were able to escape and the hostage taker was killed. FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said a team would investigate "the shooting incident." (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

COLLEYVILLE, Texas (AP) — A rabbi who was among four people held hostage at a Texas synagogue said Sunday that their armed captor grew “increasingly belligerent and threatening” toward the end of the 10-hour standoff, which ended with an FBI SWAT team rushing into the building and the captor’s death.

Authorities identified the hostage-taker as a 44-year-old British national, Malik Faisal Akram, who was killed Saturday night after the last hostages ran out of Congregation Beth Israel around 9 p.m. The FBI said there was no indication that anyone else was involved, but it had not provided a possible motive as of Sunday afternoon.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker credited security training that his suburban Fort Worth congregation has received over the years for getting him and the other three hostages through the ordeal, which he described as traumatic.

“In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening,” Cytron-Walker said in a statement. “Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself.”

President Joe Biden called the episode an act of terror. Akram could be heard ranting on a Facebook livestream of the services and demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan.

Speaking to reporters in Philadelphia on Sunday, Biden said Akram allegedly purchased a weapon on the streets.

Federal investigators believe Akram purchased the handgun used in the hostage taking in a private sale, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Akram arrived in the U.S. at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York about two weeks ago, a law enforcement official said.

Video from Dallas TV station WFAA showed people running out a door of the synagogue, and then a man holding a gun opening the same door just seconds later before he turned around and closed it. Moments later, several shots and then an explosion could be heard.

“Rest assured, we are focused,” Biden said. “The attorney general is focused and making sure that we deal with these kinds of acts.”

Akram arrived in the U.S. recently on a tourist visa from Great Britain, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not intended to be public. London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement that its counter-terrorism police were liaising with U.S. authorities about the incident.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said the hostage-taker was specifically focused on an issue not directly connected to the Jewish community. It wasn’t clear why Akram chose the synagogue, though the prison where Saddiqui is serving her sentence is in Fort Worth.

Michael Finfer, the president of the congregation, said in a statement “there was a one in a million chance that the gunman picked our congregation.”

Authorities have declined to say who shot Akram, saying it was still under investigation.

Authorities said police were first called to the synagogue around 11 a.m. and people were evacuated from the surrounding neighborhood soon afterward.

Saturday’s services were being livestreamed on the synagogue’s Facebook page for a time. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that an angry man could be heard ranting and talking about religion at times during the livestream, which didn’t show what was happening inside the synagogue.

Shortly before 2 p.m., the man said, “You got to do something. I don’t want to see this guy dead.” Moments later, the feed cut out. A spokesperson for Meta Platforms Inc., the corporate successor to Facebook Inc., later confirmed that Facebook had removed the video.

Akram used his phone during the course of negotiations to communicate with people other than law enforcement, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Multiple people heard the hostage-taker refer to Siddiqui as his “sister” on the livestream. But John Floyd, board chair for the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations — the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group — said Siddiqui’s brother, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved.

“We want the assailant to know that his actions are wicked and directly undermine those of us who are seeking justice for Dr. Aafia,” said Floyd, who also is legal counsel for Mohammad Siddiqui.

Texas resident Victoria Francis, who said she watched about an hour of the livestream, said she heard the man rant against America and claim he had a bomb. Biden said there were apparently no explosives, despite the threats.

“He was just all over the map. He was pretty irritated and the more irritated he got, he’d make more threats, like ‘I’m the guy with the bomb. If you make a mistake, this is all on you.’ And he’d laugh at that,” Francis said. “He was clearly in extreme distress.”

Colleyville, a community of about 26,000 people, is about 15 miles (23 kilometers) northeast of Fort Worth. By Sunday morning, the police perimeter around the synagogue had shrunk to half a block in either direction and FBI agents could be seen going in and out of the building. A sign saying “Love” — with the “o” replaced with a Star of David — was planted in a neighbor’s lawn.

Reached outside his home Sunday, Cytron-Walker declined to speak at length about the episode. “It’s a little overwhelming as your can imagine. It was not fun yesterday,” he told the AP.

Andrew Marc Paley, a Dallas rabbi who was called to the scene to help families and hostages upon their release, said Cytron-Walker acted as a calm and comforting presence. The first hostage was released shortly after 5 p.m. That was around the time food was delivered to those inside the synagogue, but Paley said he did not know if it was part of the negotiations.

“He appeared a little unfazed, actually, but I don’t know if that was sort of shock or just the moment,” Paley said of the first hostage who was released.

Cytron-Walker said his congregation had received training from local authorities and the Secure Community Network, which was founded in 2004 by a coalition of Jewish organizations and describes itself as “the official safety and security organization” of the Jewish community in North America. Michael Masters, the CEO of the organization, said the congregation had provided security training in August and had not been previously aware of Akram.

The standoff led authorities to tighten security in other places, including New York City, where police said that they increased their presence “at key Jewish institutions” out of an abundance of caution.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Twitter that “this event is a stark reminder that antisemitism is still alive and we must continue to fight it worldwide.”

 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

AP

A TikTok content creator, sits outside the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, April 23, 2024....

HALELUYA HADERO AP Business Writer

Senate passes bill forcing TikTok parent company to sell or face ban, sends to Biden for signature

The Senate passed legislation that would force the parent company of TikTok to sell the social media platform under the threat of a ban.

17 hours ago

A wood sign with the Google Cloud logo on a sunny day. A person rides their bike behind it....

Associated Press

Google has fired more workers who protested its deal with Israel

An activist group says Google fired at more workers following protests of technology the company is supplying the Israeli government amid the Gaza war.

1 day ago

The Chicago Bears logo is pictured on a flag prior to an NFL football game...

Associated Press

Chicago Bears schedule a Wednesday announcement on new stadium near lakefront

The team said last month it was prepared to provide more than $2 billion in funding toward a publicly owned stadium in the city.

1 day ago

An assortment of vegan, organic, locally sourced, and wild caught food products all using plastic p...

Associated Press

How one grocery shopper takes steps to avoid ‘pointless plastic’

Nature wraps bananas and oranges in peels. But in some modern supermarkets, they're bagged or wrapped in plastic too. For one shopper, it's too much.

2 days ago

us supreme court shown, court hearing case on ghost guns...

MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press

Supreme Court will take up the legal fight over ghost guns, firearms without serial numbers

The Supreme Court had previously intervened to keep regulation for gun ghosts in effect during a legal fight over the rules.

2 days ago

former president trump, hush money trial opening statement started monday...

MICHAEL R. SISAK, JENNIFER PELTZ, ERIC TUCKER and JAKE OFFENHARTZ

Trump tried to ‘corrupt’ the 2016 election, prosecutor alleges as hush money trial gets underway

The opening statements in the hush money trial marked the first time that prosecutors have presented a criminal case against a former president to a jury.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

Texas rabbi: Captor grew “belligerent” late in standoff