The rabbi of a Texas synagogue that was the site of a hostage stand-off told on Monday how he threw a chair at the armed man, allowing those held to flee.
During the “last hour” of the 10-hour trial on Saturday, “their prisoner did not get what he wanted,” Charlie Cytron-Walker, rabbi of the Beth Israel Congregation in the small town of Colleyville, near Dallas, told CBS.
“It did not look good. It did not sound good,” he said. “It was scary,” he added, his voice still marked by emotion. “When I saw an opportunity where he was not 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 far from them, he said.
“I told them to go. I threw a chair at the armed man and walked towards the door, and all three of us were able to get out without even a shot being fired.”
“It was scary. It was overwhelming. We’re still working”: Rabbi Charlie Cytron Walker shares what he experienced inside the Texas synagogue where four hostages were held under gunfire over the weekend. Pic.twitter.com/ZX8DrQkjJj
– CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) January 17, 2022 The FBI has identified their captors as a British citizen named Malik Faisal Akram, 44.
Including the rabbi, Akram took four people hostage on Saturday in the synagogue in what President Joe Biden has described as an “act of terrorism”.
He appears to have demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist who was sentenced in 2010 by a federal court in New York to 86 years in prison on charges of terrorism.
One of the hostages was released after several hours of negotiations, while the other three were released in the evening, all on good terms.
But Akram died after a police intervention involving gunfire. Details have not yet been released, and it is not clear if he killed himself or was killed by police.
Cytron-Walker explained that he has received safety training, including from the police, on how to react in active shooting situations.
“They really teach you in these moments that when your life is threatened, you have to do everything you can to get to safety. You have to do what you can to get out,” he says.
He added that religious leadership training also conveyed “the idea of being a calm, non-anxious presence … I did my best to do so throughout the conflict.”
According to reports, Akram had first knocked on the door of the synagogue, and the rabbi offered him a cup of tea.
The service was livestreamed on Facebook when it was interrupted, and some sounds from the negotiations between Akram and law enforcement authorities could be heard.
In it, Akram describes the moment he entered the synagogue.
“They gave me a cup of tea,” he told The New York Times. “So I feel bad.”
Cytron-Walker said the tea was “an opportunity for me to talk to him.”
“I heard nothing suspicious,” he said.
But during the prayer, as he turned his back on Akram to face Jerusalem, “I heard a click … It was his pistol.”