The Colleyville rabbi held hostage with three members of his congregation Saturday joined members of the FBI and Colleyville Police Department to discuss the attack on Friday afternoon.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, of Colleyville's Congregation Beth Israel, joined Matthew DeSarno, SAC of the Dallas FBI, and Michael C. Miller, Colleyville Chief of Police, in a news conference where they discussed the latest in the investigation into the attack and what took place in the temple that night.
"The FBI is and has been treating Saturday’s events as an act of terrorism targeting the Jewish community," DeSarno said. "The Colleyville attack is a terrorism-related investigation in which the Jewish community was targeted...Let me be clear here. This was both a hate crime and an act of terrorism."
DeSarno also provided more details on the final moments of the hostage. As the hours passed, he said the behavior of the hostage-taker identified as 44-year-old Malik Akram changed. Akram became combative and issued ultimatums and deadlines, according to DeSarno.
"Just after 9 p.m., two near simultaneous plans of actions unfolded," DeSarno said Friday. "I authorized the FBI’s hostage team to make entry into Congregation Beth Israel on the south and west side of the synagogue. As the teams approached, FBI Dallas Swat encountered the three remaining hostages running from the northeast entrance of the synagogue."
Rabbi Cytron-Walker said the first hour of the ordeal was "extremely upsetting," adding there were long periods of time where the hostage-taker engaged in calm conversation with them.
"He went from extremely agitated with the negotiator to all of sudden very calm like he was in the day asking me for juice and I was highly, highly concerned in that moment," Cytron-Walker said. "We were fearful the whole time. It’s hard not to be with someone with a gun in the hand kind of pointing at you the whole time."
Cytron-Walker said earlier this week he threw a chair at the hostage-taker and he and the two other remaining hostages slipped out a side door. The fourth hostage was released earlier in the evening.
Texas Temple Standoff
Earlier Friday, the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Akram's cause of death. He was fatally shot multiple times after an FBI hostage rescue team entered the temple.
DeSarno said they were still working with intelligence partners to learn as much about Akram, his associations, and motivations.
"We are following up on a volume of viable leads as this is an evolving investigation into a terrorist across global boundaries and who is not known to and did not have prior contact with US intelligence and law enforcement authorities," he said.
Colleyville police say they have received tips from the public including residents who may have interacted with him in the days leading up to Saturday.
After receiving a tip from a resident Sunday, Akram's mountain bike was found chained to a fence along a bike path near a Colleyville soccer complex less than a mile from Congregation Beth Israel, said Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller.
The resident reportedly interacted with Akram on Friday, the day before the attack.
"They [FBI investigators] were able to unlock the bike wih a key that was found in possession of the deceased suspect," said Chief Miller.
DeSarno said he believes everyone Akram interacted with during the 15 to 16 days he spent in north Texas have been identified, including the person seen dropping off and hugging Akram at OurCalling homeless shelter the night of January second.
When asked by a reporter if the person is considered an accomplice, DeSarno replied, "At this point, all I'm prepared to say is that we have identified them."
For the first time since the attack, Congregation Beth Israel gathered for Shabbat service Friday evening.
"God willing, the worst is over," Cytron-Walker said during the service.