Texas synagogue standoff: Rabbi threw chair at hostage-taker to allow escape

COLLEYVILLE, Texas — The Texas rabbi who was among four people held hostage for more than 11 hours in a synagogue Saturday said they were able to escape after he threw a chair at the hostage-taker.

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During a Monday interview with “CBS Mornings,” Charlie Cytron-Walker said that he let the gunman, who was later identified as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, inside the Congregation Beth-Israel synagogue in Colleyville, the Star-Telegram of Fort Worth reported. Akram was later killed after the hostages escaped.

Cytron-Walker let Akram into the building, believing the man needed shelter, the rabbi said during his interview. He said he made the man tea and talked with him, the Star-Telegram reported.

The rabbi said that while he was praying and his back was turned, he heard a click and later realized it was Akram’s gun, according to The Associated Press.

Law enforcement officials have credited Cytron-Walker for being calm during the incident, the Star-Telegram reported.

The rabbi told “CBS Mornings” that remaining calm is a part of what he does as a rabbi.

>> ‘Grateful to be alive’: Rabbi at Texas synagogue relieved after rescue

“We do that in hospital rooms,” Cytron-Walker said. “We do that during the most difficult of individual moments. And I did the best I could to do that throughout the standoff.”

During the last hour of the standoff, Cytron-Walker said, Akram was becoming frustrated.

“It didn’t look good,” the rabbi said. “It didn’t sound good. We were terrified.”

When he saw an opportunity, Cytron-Walker threw a chair at Akram and ran out along with the remaining hostages, the Star-Telegram reported.

Jeffrey Cohen, the vice president on the synagogue’s board of trustees who was also held hostage, described Saturday’s ordeal in a Facebook post on Monday.

>> Texas synagogue standoff: All hostages released, hostage-taker dead, officials confirm

“First of all, we escaped,” Cohen said, according to the AP. “We weren’t released or freed.”

At one point as the situation deteriorated, Cohen said the gunman told them to get on their knees.

Cohen stood up in his chair and mouthed “No.” As the gunman moved to sit back down, Cohen said Cytron-Walker yelled to run.

“The exit wasn’t too far away,” Cytron-Walker told “CBS Mornings.” “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.”

Akram came to the U.S. on a tourist visa from Great Britain, the AP reported, citing a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity. London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement that its counter-terrorism police were working with U.S. authorities about the incident.