COLLEYVILLE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) An armed British citizen who took four people hostage during a 10-hour standoff in a North Texas synagogue had spent time in homeless shelters in the area in the two weeks leading up to the attack and was dropped off by one of one he seemed to know.
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Malik Faisal Akram, the man the authorities identified as the hostage-taker, was taken to the downtown Dallas shelter on Jan. 2 by a man who hugged him and had conversations with him, said Wayne Walker, CEO and pastor of OurCalling, which provides services to the homeless.
“He was handed over by someone who looked like he had an affair with him,” said Walker, who said they had handed over photos and videos to the FBI.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker told “CBS Mornings” that he would close Akram into the Beth Israel Congregation in Colleyville on Saturday morning because he appeared to need shelter.
Cytron-Walker said the man was not threatening or suspicious at first, but later heard a gun click while praying.
The rabbi and three other men attended the service, which was livestreamed when they were taken hostage. The first hostage was released shortly before noon. 17.00 Cytron-Walker and two others escaped around kl. 21.00 when Cytron-Walker threw a chair at the gunman.
“The exit was not too far away,” Cytron-Walker said. “I asked them to go. I threw a chair at the gunman and I went to the door. And all three of us were able to get out without a shot being fired.”
Akram was killed after the hostages ran out. Authorities have declined to say who shot Akram, saying it was still under investigation.
Video of the end of the standoff showed people running out of a door of the synagogue, and then a man with a gun who opened the same door just seconds later before turning around and closing it. Moments later, several shots and then an explosion could be heard.
The FBI on Sunday night issued a statement calling the trial “a terrorism-related issue targeting Jewish community” and said the Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating. The agency noted that Akram repeatedly spoke during negotiations about a prisoner serving an 86-year sentence in a federal prison in Metroplex. The statement followed Saturday’s comments from the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas field office that the hostage-taker was focused on an issue “not specifically related to the Jewish community.”
One could hear Akram rattle on a Facebook livestream of the services and demand the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having links to al-Qaeda, who was convicted of attempting to kill US army officers in Afghanistan.
“The last hour or so of the standoff, he did not get what he wanted. It did not look good. It did not sound good. We were horrified,” Cytron-Walker told CBS Mornings.
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At a church service Monday night at a nearby Methodist church, Cytron-Walker said the amount of “wishes and kindness and compassion” has been overwhelming. “Thank you for all the compassion, from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “While very few of us are okay right now, we’ll get through this.”
The investigation extended to England, where police in Manchester announced late Sunday that two teenagers had been remanded in custody in connection with the showdown. Greater Manchester Police tweeted that counter-terrorism officers had made the arrests, but did not say whether the couple faced any charges.
President Joe Biden called the episode a terrorist act. Biden spoke to reporters in Philadelphia on Sunday, saying Akram allegedly bought a weapon on the street.
Akram arrived in the United States – New York – on a tourist visa from the United Kingdom, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not intended to be public.
After staying at the OurCalling facility on Jan. 2, he lived at another homeless shelter in Dallas.
A spokeswoman for the FBI said late Monday night that they had no information they could confirm regarding Akram’s stay at the OurCalling facility. The agency has said there were no early signs that others were involved in the hostage-taking.
Akram stayed three nights between Jan. 6 and Jan. 13 at the Union Gospel Mission Dallas, according to information from Homeless Shelter CEO Bruce Butler. According to their records, Akram left there for the last time on January 13 – two days before he took the hostages to the synagogue.
Akram used his phone during the negotiations to communicate with non-law enforcement officials, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
It was not clear why Akram chose the synagogue, even though the prison where Siddiqui is serving his sentence is located in Fort Worth.
A Texas lawyer representing Siddiqui said Monday that Siddiqui had no connection to Akram.
Akram, which was called Faisal by his family, was from Blackburn, an industrial town in the north-west of England. His family said he had “a bit of a mental problem.”
“We would also like to add that any attack on any human being, be it a Jew, Christian or Muslim, etc. is wrong and should always be condemned,” wrote his brother, Gulbar Akram.
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