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Colleyville rabbi: ‘I threw a chair at the gunman and ran for the door’

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Congregation Beth Israel website
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Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and three members of Congregation Beth Israel were held hostage by a gunman for several hours on Saturday. They all made it out alive.

In an interview with CBS This Morning, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker talked about the 11-hour hostage ordeal he and members of his congregation survived.

After hours of being held hostage inside a Colleyville synagogue, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker knew the situation was becoming more dire. The gunman wasn’t getting what he wanted and it showed.

In an interview with CBS This Morning, Cytron-Walker said that was the moment he knew he needed to act. One hostage was released but two others remained inside with Cytron-Walker.

“I made sure that the two gentlemen who were still with me … that they were ready to go. The exit wasn’t too far away. I told them to go,” he recounted. “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.”

Moments after, law enforcement entered the synagogue. The hostage-taker, identified by the FBI as British national Malik Faisal Akram, died.

Cytron-Walker said security courses he and his congregation have taken prepared them for this ordeal. Throughout it, he remained calm, something he also attributes to his spiritual training.

“As part of training as clergy, we talk a lot about being a calm non-anxious presence,” he said. “We do that in hospital rooms. We do that during the most difficult of individual moments and I did the best I could.”

Cytron-Walker described the situation as terrifying and overwhelming.

He said he let Akram inside because he thought he needed help. He made him tea and listened to him.

The congregation was holding Shabbat services. As they were praying, Cytron-Walker said he had his back to Akram. That’s when he heard a click – it was Akram’s gun.

Authorities haven't specified how exactly Akram died.

According to The New York Times, Akram, who was 44, was battling serious mental health issues. The Times spoke with Akram’s brother, who lives in Blackburn in northwestern England.

Gulbar Akram said his brother was “deeply troubled” and “had grown distant from his family,” the Times reported.

On Sunday, British authorities said they had arrested two teenagers as part of their investigation into the events.

Got a tip? Email Stella M. Chávez at schavez@kera.org. You can follow Stella on Twitter @stellamchavez.

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Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.