(The Post Millennial) – Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue provided insight to CBS News on what happened when the suspect, identifed as now-deceased British national Malik Faisal Akram, held four hostages in Colleyville, Texas, in an hours-long standoff Saturday.
The rabbi, who was among the hostages, said that his rabbinical training helped him remain calm during the situation that seemed to start off as “curious,” but quickly evolved into a violent hostage situation that unfolded over many hours.
Cytron-Walke revealed details about the ordeal and said the group managed to escape after he threw a chair at the gunman, he told “CBS Mornings” on Monday.
“I took him in. I stayed with him. Making tea was an opportunity for me to talk with him and in that moment, I didn’t hear anything suspicious. Some of his story didn’t quite add up. So I was a little bit curious, but that’s not necessarily an uncommon thing. It was during prayer while we were praying and my back was turned—we face towards Jerusalem when we pray—right before he revealed himself, but this was you know, plenty of time in, I heard a click. And it could have been anything and it turned out that it was gun,” he said.
He said that while he and the other hostages were threatened the entire time, that no one was injured during the crisis that made national headlines.
“So for the past few years, we’ve had training with—it’s not training—it’s, I guess, courses instruction with the FBI…with the Anti-Defamation League, with Secure Communities Network, and they really teach you in those moments…when your life is threatened, you need to do whatever you can to get to safety, you need to do whatever you can to get out,” Cytron-Walker explained.
Cytron-Walker said he and the remaining hostages were “terrified” during the last hour of the standoff Saturday night because the suspect “wasn’t getting what he wanted.” It was at that point Cytron-Walker saw an opportunity to act.
Cytron-Walker said he first made sure the other hostages were ready to run to safety and that the group wasn’t too far from the exit.
“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 continued. “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 wasn’t too far away. I told them to go. I threw a chair at the gunman. I headed for the door. And all three of us were able to get out without even a shot being fired.”
He continued to say that the community would return to the Texas synagogue, and that he was grateful that although trauma was experienced, that it was only experienced by a few people attending services in-person.
“Oh, of course. It’s something that we are definitely going to do. Unfortunately, we’ve experienced just great difficulty and challenges of people,” Cytron-Walker expressed. “And at the same time, we’ve experienced great resilience. It won’t necessarily be an easy thing, but it’s a really important thing. A synagogue is a place called the Beit Knesset; it’s a House of Assembly.”
“It’s where we gather. It’s a place where we gather as a community. It’s a place where we pray together. And it’s been really hard. Since some of the community was in-person, I’m so grateful that we only had a few people in-person, and we had other people joining us online. But the fact that it was only a few of us had to experience—all of us experienced trauma—but just a few of us had to experience that level of trauma is just one of so many things I’m grateful for,” he concluded.