Jan 17, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Colleyville Rabbi credits survival to active-shooter training

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, one of the people taken hostage in a synagogue outside Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday, said in an interview with CBS on Monday that he initially took in the man because he thought he needed shelter.

The big picture: Cytron-Walker said he spoke to the hostage taker, identified by the FBI as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, for several minutes and made him tea before Akram took the rabbi and three other people hostage for around 11 hours during Shabbat services in Colleyville.

  • The standoff between Akram and law enforcement officials ended after Cytron-Walker and two other hostages who were still in the synagogue were saved by a hostage rescue team and the gunman was killed.
  • Authorities said they believe the suspect was motivated by a desire to free a Pakistani neuroscientist serving an 86-year sentence in a Texas prison for assaulting U.S. federal agents, employees and nationals in Afghanistan.

What they're saying: "It was terrifying. It was overwhelming and we're still processing. It's been a lot," Cytron-Walker said.

  • "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 said.
  • "When I saw an opportunity where he wasn't in a good position, I made sure that the two gentlemen who were 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 and I headed for the door. And all three of us were able to get out without a shot being fired."
  • "I just want to give thanks and appreciation for all of the love and all of the support from the Jewish community, my people, from the Muslim community, from the Christian community, from all faiths, all backgrounds, friends, acquaintances, strangers all over the world. It's truly been overwhelming. Thank you so much."

Cytron-Walker said members of his congregation had taken active shooter courses with the FBI, the Colleyville Police Department, the Anti-Defamation League and the Secure Community Network.

  • "They really teach you in those moments that 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," he added.

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