The man accused of holding a rabbi and his congregants hostage at a Texas synagogue has been identified as a British citizen.
And now, witnesses have come forward to recall the terrifying situation that played out on a Facebook live stream.
Hostage-taker Malik Faisal Akram, 44, was shot dead during the madness. The FBI said it was a 10-hour standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville on Saturday night.
“The FBI’s Evidence Response Team (ERT) will continue processing evidence at the synagogue,” the agency said. “At this time, there is no indication that other individuals are involved.”
A UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office spokesperson released a statement on Sunday, saying, “We are aware of the death of a British man in Texas and are in contact with the local authorities.”
Akram took four people hostage. Among those was Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, during a Shabbat morning service, authorities said.
A Facebook live stream of the services showed him ranting with a British accent and demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who is suspected of having ties to al Qaeda and is locked up at a federal prison in Texas, the New York Post reported.
CNN reported that congregation member Stacey Silverman watched the feed for over an hour, as Akram insisted, “I’m not a criminal,” and apologized for the terrifying situation.
Akram went from one language to the next and at points was “screaming hysterically,” she recalled.
“At any moment, I thought there was going to be a gunshot,” Silverman told the outlet.
Another Texas resident, Victoria Francis, detailed how she heard the man bash America and claimed he had a bomb.
“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.”
Shortly before the feed ended around 2 p.m., the suspect was heard saying, “You got to do something. I don’t want to see this guy dead.”
A rep for Meta Platforms Inc., Facebook’s parent company, confirmed that the video had been removed.
During the ordeal, Akram called a rabbi in New York City in a bizarre bid for help, sources claim – but was “singularly focused on one issue and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community,” according to FBI Special Agent Matt DeSarno.
Authorities tried negotiating with the suspect, and those living nearby the synagogue were evacuated as a precaution.
“This situation would likely have ended very badly early on in the day had we not had professional, consistent negotiation with the subject,” DeSarno told CNN.
One of the hostages, a man, was released close to 5 p.m., which was around the time that food was delivered to those inside the synagogue.
“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 after his release. “He was calm and grateful to law enforcement and Rabbi Charlie.”
Dramatic video showed hostages escaping through a door — and Akram eventually exiting with his gun in hand before retreating into the building after spotting a SWAT team.
Moments later, gunfire rang out, and the sound of an explosion.
All hostages were marked safe.
“Prayers answered,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbot tweeted at 9:30 p.m.
All hostages are out alive and safe.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 16, 2022
Cytron-Walker, the rabbi who was held captive, chose not to discuss the terrifying incident Sunday but did tell the Associated Press, “It’s a little overwhelming as you can imagine. It was not fun yesterday.”
President Joe Biden declared the hostage situation an “act of terror” but said that authorities “just don’t have enough facts” to place a motive of why Akram targeted the synagogue.
“I don’t think there is sufficient information to know about why he targeted that synagogue, why he insisted on the release of someone who’s been in prison for over 10 years, why he was engaged, why he was using an anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli comments,” Biden said Sunday during a visit to a food bank in Philadelphia.
Biden added that he didn’t “have all of the facts” about how Akram obtained the weapons but that the man “allegedly purchased it on the street” and may have only been in the US for a few weeks.
“Guns are — the idea of background checks are critical but you can’t stop someone from buying something on the street,” he said.
Biden said he spoke to US Attorney General Merrick Garland about the ordeal.
“We are focused. The Attorney General is focused. I’m making sure that we deal with these kinds of acts,” he said.
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) January 16, 2022