COLLEYVILLE, Texas (KXAN) — The rabbi who was held hostage for nearly 12 hours at his Texas synagogue on Saturday has broken his silence in an emotional Facebook post Sunday morning.
Charlie Cytron-Walker and the other hostages all made it out of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville alive after the standoff that lasted all day.
The incident ended when an FBI SWAT team entered the building at about 9 p.m. The hostage taker, who was identified Sunday as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, was killed in a “shooting incident” that the FBI is investigating, Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said.
Cytron-Walker and two other hostages were able to get out of the synagogue moments before the shooting. A fourth hostage was released earlier in the afternoon.
In a Facebook post, the rabbi said he is “grateful to be alive.”
“I am thankful and filled with appreciation for all of the vigils and prayers and love and support, all of the law enforcement and first responders who cared for us, all of the security training that helped save us,” Cytron-Walker wrote.
“I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for the CBI Community, the Jewish Community, the Human Community. I am grateful that we made it out. I am grateful to be alive,” he added.
Cytron-Walker has been the synagogue’s full-time rabbi since 2006.
Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke out about the incident Sunday, expressing her gratitude that the hostages escaped, thanking law enforcement and denouncing antisemitism.
“We thank the brave men and women in federal, state, and local law enforcement, and we stand in solidarity with the Congregation Beth Israel community and the entire Jewish community,” Harris said.
“While we will learn more about the hostage taker’s motivation, we know this: what happened yesterday at Congregation Beth Israel is a reminder that we must speak up and combat antisemitism and hate wherever it exists.
“Everyone has a right to pray, work, study, and spend time with loved ones not as the other – but as us,” she added.
Police in Colleyville were first called to the synagogue around 11 a.m. Saturday.
Akram could be heard ranting on a livestream of the synagogue’s service. About three hours later, the livestream feed cut out when Facebook removed the feed.
The Associated Press reports Akram was demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan.
Siddiqui is in custody at a federal prison in Texas, but it is unclear why Akram chose the synagogue.
The FBI and police did not say who shot him. An investigation into the incident continues.