WATCH: Texas Rabbi Tells Riveting Story of How He Helped Hostages Escape From Synagogue

There were four people who were held during the hostage situation at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, including the rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker.


Cytron-Walker gave an interview to CBS this morning. He spoke with Gayle King and Tony Dokupil. His account was riveting. You could see how he was still trying to process the experience which he described as “terrifying” and “overwhelming.” You could also see what a humble guy he was as he tried to recount what happened and how he was responsible for getting the other hostages and himself out.

The rabbi let the man in because he was asking for help, something that houses of worship are known for, a kindness of which the hostage-taker Malik Faisal Akram took advantage.

Akram chose this place, according to people who heard him on the live stream, because it appeared to be the closest assemblage of Jews to a federal facility in Fort Worth where an American-educated Pakistani convicted terrorist is serving an 86-year sentence for shooting at U.S. soldiers and FBI agents.

Akram wanted Aafia Siddiqui released. He wanted to see her, after which, he said, he and she — “my sister,” he called her, though her relatives say they were not related — would rise together to Jannah, the Muslim paradise where the faithful are taken after Judgment Day.

So if Joe Biden still isn’t clear on the motivation, Akram was very upfront with what he wanted.

“When I took him in, I stayed with him,” Cytron-Walker said. “Making tea was an opportunity for me to talk with him. In that moment I didn’t hear anything suspicious.”


But then when the rabbi was praying and had his back turned to Akram, he “heard a click.” It was Akram’s gun.

The rabbi said that while Akram didn’t physically hurt anyone during the ordeal, they were “threatened the entire time.”

Akram ranted about Jews and Israel and said he didn’t care if he died a “martyr.” He told the negotiators that he didn’t want to hurt anyone, but then he implied he would if authorities stormed the building.

While one hostage was released about 5:00 p.m., three others, including the rabbi, were still being held. Relatives, faith leaders, and members of the Israeli Consulate in Houston all gathered at Good Shepard Catholic Community about two blocks away and they prayed.

“The last hour of the standoff, he wasn’t getting what he wanted…It didn’t look good. It didn’t sound good. We were very, we were terrified,” the rabbi said. “When I saw an opportunity when 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 wrote previously about the dramatic video of the escape, then the FBI breaching the building. You can see a clip here of the escape out the door, with Akram who was armed following them. But they had just enough time to get out and he ducked back inside, probably because he saw the phalanx of law enforcement.

What courage and the presence of mind to do that, and to make sure that his people got out before him as he threw the chair. Cytron-Walker credited the training that he had received to help deal with potential attacks, to help him know when to act to get away.


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