WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A rabbi who was among four Jewish congregants taken captive at a Dallas-area synagogue said on Monday that he and others managed to escape after he threw a chair at the hostage-taker and then rushed for an exit door.
The ten-hour siege Saturday at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, west of Dallas, Texas, ended in gunfire with all four hostages released and the suspect dead. It is not clear whether the gunman took his own life or was killed by members of an FBI hostage rescue team.
The suspect, identified by the FBI as a British citizen, knocked on the synagogue’s door during Sabbath prayers and was invited in and offered tea, Rabbi Charlie Cytron Walker, who was among those taken captive, told CBS.
Walker then returned to prayer, after which he said he “heard a click – and it could have been anything – but it turned out it was his gun.”
One hostage was released unharmed after six hours of tense negotiations conducted with help from the family of the suspect, 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram.
Still held captive with two others, Walker said he drew on hostage training from the FBI when determining if and when to try to escape.
“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, (and that) the exit wasn’t too far away,” 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.”
The FBI’s hostage rescue team then raided the synagogue, leading to Akram’s death. Police in England say they have detained two teenagers for questioning.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Scott Malone and Chizu Nomiyama)