Hostage in Texas: “I Threw a Chair At the Gunman, and I Headed for the Door”

COLLEYVILLE, Texas (AP) —
Shortly after 5 p.m., local time, authorities escort a hostage out of the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. (Elias Valverde/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

The leader of a Texas congregation where a gunman took hostages during services said Monday that he threw a chair at his captor before escaping with two others after an hours-long standoff, crediting past security training for getting himself and his congregants out safely.

The hostage told “CBS Mornings” that he let the gunman inside the suburban Fort Worth Jewish center Saturday because he appeared to need shelter. He said the man was not threatening or suspicious at first. Later, he heard a gun click during services.

Another hostage, Jeffrey R. Cohen, described the ordeal on social media on Monday.

“First of all, we escaped. We weren’t released or freed,” said Cohen, who was one of four people in the congregation for services.

Cohen said the men worked to keep the gunman engaged. They talked to the gunman, he lectured them. At one point as the situation devolved, Cohen said the gunman told them to get on their knees. Cohen recalled rearing up in his chair and slowly moving his head and mouthing “no.” As the gunman moved to sit back down, Cohen said Cytron-Walker yelled to run.

“The exit wasn’t too far away,” Cytron-Walker said. “I told them to go. I threw a chair at the gunman, and I headed for the door. And all three of us were able to get out without even a shot being fired.”

Authorities identified the hostage-taker as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, who was killed Saturday night after the last three hostages ran out of the congregation in Colleyville around 9 p.m. The first hostage was released shortly after 5 p.m.

“The last hour or so of the standoff, he wasn’t getting what he wanted. It didn’t look good. It didn’t sound good. We were terrified,” Cytron-Walker told “CBS Mornings.”

Video of the standoff’s end from Dallas TV station WFAA showed people running out a door, 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.

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

The investigation stretched to England, where late Sunday police in Manchester announced that two teenagers were in custody in connection with the standoff. Greater Manchester Police tweeted that counter-terrorism officers had made the arrests but did not say whether the pair faced any charges.

Akram arrived in the U.S. 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.

U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel told the House of Commons on Monday that she had spoken to her U.S. counterpart, Alejandro Mayorkas, and offered “the full support” of the police and security services in Britain in the investigation.

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.

It wasn’t clear why Akram chose the house of worship, though the prison where Siddiqui is serving her sentence is in Fort Worth.

Akram, who was called Faisal by his family, was from Blackburn, an industrial city in northwest England. His family said he’d been “suffering from mental health issues.”

“We would also like to add that any attack on any human being, be it a Jew, Christian or Muslim, etc. is wrong and should always be condemned,” his brother, Gulbar Akram, wrote.

Community organizer Asif Mahmud, who has known the family for 30 years and attends the same mosque, said the family was devastated by what happened in Texas.

He “had mental health issues for a number of years,” Mahmud said. “The family obviously were aware of that … but nobody envisaged he would potentially go and do something like this.”

“Ours is a town where people from different backgrounds, cultures and faiths are welcomed, and it is a place where people get along and support one another,” Mohammed Khan, leader of the local government council in Blackburn, said in a statement.

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!

Hamodia Logo