State Watch

Rabbi says security training paid off in Texas synagogue standoff

Law enforcement process the scene in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue
Associated Press/Brandon Wade

The Texas rabbi who was held hostage with three other people at his synagogue on Saturday said security courses the congregation participated in helped during the standoff.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker said in a statement that he and the three congregants are alive because of the security education they received.

He also urged other congregations, religious groups and schools to take part in similar active-shooter and security courses.

“Over the years, my congregation and I have participated in multiple security courses from the Colleyville Police Department, the FBI, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Secure Community Network,” Cytron-Walker said in the statement provided to The Hill through a spokesperson. “We are alive today because of that education.”

The rabbi said the hostage-taker “became increasingly belligerent and threatening” in the last hour of the standoff, adding that without the instruction, the group would not have been prepared to act and flee when the opportunity became available.

Cytron-Walker and the congregants were released from Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, after an hours-long standoff that started Saturday morning.

President Biden on Sunday called the incident an “act of terror.”

The FBI identified the gunman on Sunday as a British national named Malik Faisal Akram. The special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas Field Office, Matthew DeSarno, said Akram, 44, appeared to be the only one involved in the hostage situation.

On Sunday, however, British police arrested two teenagers in connection with the hostage-taking investigation. Greater Manchester Police wrote on Twitter that the pair of teenagers was in custody for questioning, but authorities did not say if the two had been charged.

The FBI said in a statement late Sunday that the Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating the hostage situation. The bureau called it “a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted, and is being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”

“We never lose sight of the threat extremists pose to the Jewish community and to other religious, racial, and ethnic groups,” the FBI added.

The bureau’s comments were a departure from remarks made by DeSarno, who on Saturday night said the incident at the synagogue did not have a direct link to the Jewish community.

Cytron-Walker in the statement also said there is “no question that this was a traumatic experience.”

“We appreciate all the love, prayers and support from our local community and throughout the world. We are grateful for the outcome. We are resilient and we will recover,” he added.

Tags Congregation Beth Israel hostage situation Joe Biden

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