The Texas rabbi who escaped from British gunman Malik Faisal Akram after a 12-hour stand-off on Saturday has told how he welcomed him into his synagogue and gave him a cup of tea beforehand.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker welcomed Akram into Beth Israel Congregation in Colleyville, Texas, on Saturday unaware that he a was carrying a gun.
Akram touched the window, then went in and had tea with Cytron Walker before service began.
The 44-year old British gunman opened fire on the priest as he was leading congregation members in prayer. He then took three other people hostage.
SWAT teams shot him dead after the hostages had fled.
Rabbi Cytron Walker, in an interview on Monday with CBS Mornings, said that he welcomed Rabbi Cytron-Walker into the fold without hesitation.
“When I brought him in, I kept my distance from him. It was a chance for me to have tea and talk with him. That moment I did not. Hear anything that sounds suspicious.
“Some aspects of his story did not add up, so I was slightly curious. But that isn’t an unusual thing. It happened during prayer. When we pray, our faces face Jerusalem.
“I heard a click. He said that it could have been any thing, but it was actually his gun.
Gunman Malik Faisal Akram, 44, tapped on the window at Beth Israel Congregation in Coleyville and was welcomed in by Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker. After they had tea, the Rabbi went ahead to pray the morning.
Nearly 12 hours later, the standoff was over. It ended at midnight on Saturday. He was killed by the gunman
He also said that he was afraid he’d be killed by the gunman at the end because he wasn’t getting what he wanted.
It did not look right. It didn’t sound very good. We were terrified.’
Only the hostages managed to escape when the gunman threw the chair into his face, and he ran for the exit.
After all hostages had been safely evacuated, SWAT teams shot the gunman.
‘When I saw an opening, where he was not in a favorable position, I made sure that two of the gentlemen with him, were prepared to leave. It was not too difficult to find the exit.
‘I told them to go, I threw a chair at the gunman and I headed to the door and all three of us were able to get out without even a shot being fired,’ he said.
Malik Faisal Akram, who was known as Faisal Akram, had ranted that he wished he had died in the 9/11 terror attacks. His frequent visits to Pakistan were a result of his membership in the Tablighi Jamaat group. This was an attempt to ‘purify Islam’.
The SWAT team deployed in the vicinity of Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue Colleyville Texas on Saturday
Texas police officers can be seen surrounding the building on Saturday
He said that the group would “of course” return to synagogue, despite their ‘terrifying and overwhelming’ experience.
“It is something we will definitely do. We have faced great difficulties and challenges, but we also experienced tremendous resilience.
“It will not be easy, but it is a very important thing.”
It is still unclear how Akram, who previously stayed at a shelter for homeless people in the weeks leading up to his visit to the synagogue in Jerusalem, was allowed to travel to America despite having a long criminal record.
According to his family, he had been suffering from mental illness and was grieving the loss of his brother COVID-19.
It remains unclear whether or not Akram belongs to any terrorist organizations but during the stand-off, he demanded the release of ‘Lady Al Qaeda’ Aafia Siddiqui.
After being accused of plotting an attack against the US in Afghanistan, she was arrested and taken to Fort Worth.
As she was being interviewed, she fired on FBI agents and soldiers. The soldiers and FBI agents responded with fire. She was then taken to the US.
He got in by a way I don’t know how. The fury over the way the gunman, whose family claims was known to the police, was able enter the US is mounting.
She was a US citizen who had lived in America during 9/11. However, she fled to Pakistan to protect her family and convert to Christianity.
However, it isn’t known whether she spoke with Akram in person or has met him.
Earlier, Rabbi Cytron-Walker credited FBI training with being able to escape from the gunman.
He said, “Over the years my congregation has participated in numerous security courses from Colleyville Police Department and the FBI, Anti-Defamation League and Secure Community Network.”
“We live today because we have received that education. All Jewish religious and school groups are encouraged to take part in security and active-shooter courses.
“In the last hours of the hostage crisis, gunman became increasingly belligerent threatening.
“Without our instruction, we wouldn’t have been ready to take action and flee the instant the situation presented itself.”
Although Akram’s criminal history is unknown, his brother in the UK told Sky News that Akram was well-known to police.
‘He’s known to police. A criminal record. He has a criminal record. He said.
On January 2, he landed in New York at JFK Airport. Then, between January 6th and 13th, he spent time at Dallas’ Christian charity’s homeless hostel. While there, he managed to get a gun from a nearby street vendor.
British Conservative MP Bob Seely told MailOnline there seemed to have been a ‘dreadful’ error at the UK and US borders caused by an ‘intelligence failure’ and it needed to be looked at.
“This is clearly an example of poor intelligence sharing. It’s absolutely terrible that he was allowed to travel to America and cause harm to people.
“Clearly, something is wrong with the world,” he stated.
Donald Trump Jr. is one of those Americans who sought answers.
“How long has the FBI known that a radical Islamist foreign citizen with a criminal history was present in the United States? Did they work with him? Is it possible for someone to get visas? He was too busy watching your grandma conservative to get through?
Homeland Security and the FBI have yet to comment.