Lansing-born rabbi held hostage in Texas says training why he’s alive

COLLEYVILLE, Texas (WLNS) — Lansing-born rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker says the training he underwent on how to handle hostage situations is why he’s alive after being held up for 12 hours at a Texas synagogue on Saturday.

Cytron-Walker and the other hostages all made it out of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville alive after a 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 escape the synagogue right before the shooting and a fourth hostage was released earlier in the afternoon.

The rabbi credits his education and training in how to deal with situations like this for why they’re still alive.

“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. “We are alive today because of that education. I encourage all Jewish congregations, religious groups, schools, and others to participate in active-shooter and security courses.”

“In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening,” Cytron-Walker added. “Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself.” 

Michael Finfer, President of Congregation Beth Israel, also released a statement on the incident.

“We know that a situation of this magnitude could increase the concern many of us live with on a day-to-day basis due to antisemitism,” Finfer said. “It is important to note that this was a random act of violence. Indeed, there was a one in a million chance that the gunman picked our congregation. Further, the FBI is confirming that the attacker appeared to be working alone.”

Cytron-Walker said he’s very thankful the situation didn’t end tragically.

“There is no question that this was a traumatic experience,” Cytron-Walker said. “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.”

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