Texas shul rabbi recounts miraculous escape: ‘I threw a chair at my captor’

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Texas hostage-taking

Texas shul rabbi recounts miraculous escape: ‘I threw a chair at my captor’

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker said he let his captor into the building and offered him tea because he looked like he needed shelter

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

The Texas synagogue rabbi held at gunpoint for hours on Shabbat threw a chair at his captor in order to confuse him and allow his colleagues to escape.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker said the last hour of his captivity at Congregation Beth Israel in the Dallas region had been terrifying because hostage taker Malik Faisal Akram did not appear to be “getting what he wanted”.

He said he made sure that the two other hostages were ready to go because “the exit wasn’t too far away”.

He told the breakfast television programme 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.”

The account explained footage filmed outside the synagogue building on Saturday evening, which showed two figures bursting out of a side door to escape. Moments later they were followed by a third person.

The rabbi also confirmed he had let Akram into the building thinking he might need shelter and made him a cup of tea.

He told the breakfast television programme CBS Mornings: “Some of his story didn’t quite add up so I was a little bit curious but that’s not necessarily an uncommon thing.

“It was during prayer, while we were praying and my back was turned — we face towards Jerusalem when we pray — right before he revealed himself, but this was plenty of time in, I heard a click. And it could have been anything. And it turned out it was his gun.”

Rabbi Cytron-Walker explained said it had been safety courses that provided him with the training to act when the opportunity arose.

“For the past few years we’ve had training — it’s not training, it’s, I guess, courses, instruction — with the FBI, with the police department, with the Anti-Defamation League, with Secure Communities Network and they really teach you in those moments that when your life is threatened, you need to do whatever you can to get to safety, you need to do whatever you can to get out.”

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