COLLEYVILLE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – A hostage situation at a synagogue in Colleyville on Saturday, January 15 ended after nearly 11 hours when law enforcement safely rescued all four hostages.
Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies worked together to save the hostages.
Authorities said a man apparently took hostages Saturday during services at a Texas synagogue where the suspect could be heard ranting angrily in a livestream before the feed cut out.
Four hostages were held inside the synagogue, including the Congregation’s rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker
One of the hostages was released unharmed that evening, Colleyville Police said. He did not require medical attention and will be reunited with his family as soon as possible.
A Facebook live feed from Congregation Beth Israel was on when the incident started to unfold. Shabbat services were being streamed at the time according to the Congregation’s website.
Authorities are still trying to discern a precise motive for the attack. The hostage-taker was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda, who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. military officers while in custody in Afghanistan, one of the law enforcement officials said. He also said he wanted to be able to speak with her, according to the officials. Siddiqui is being held at FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.
According to the NYPD, Rabbi Cytron-Walker apparently called a New York City rabbi while he was held hostage. The two rabbis apparently discussed Siddiqui’s case, they said.
The law enforcement officials said investigators have not positively identified the man and cautioned that the information was based on a preliminary investigation as the situation was still rapidly developing. The suspected hostage-taker reportedly told law enforcement agents that he had supposedly placed several bombs in nearby undisclosed areas.
Multiple people heard the hostage-taker refer to Siddiqui as his “sister” on the livestream, but Faizan Syed, the executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations in DFW, told The Associated Press that Siddiqui’s brother, Mohammad Siddiqui, was not involved. Syed said CAIR’s support and prayers were with the people being held in the synagogue.
FBI Dallas spokeswoman Katie Chaumont said that crisis negotiators had been communicating with someone inside the synagogue. But she could not say whether the person was armed and she declined to describe what the person had said to authorities, citing operational sensitivity.
While the livestream was still active, the man, who used profanities, repeatedly mentioned his sister, Islam and that he thought he was going to die. The suspect also repeatedly said he was not a criminal.
Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist with advanced degrees from Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was sentenced in 2010 to 86 years in prison on charges that she assaulted and shot at U.S. Army officers after being detained in Afghanistan two years earlier. The punishment sparked outrage in Pakistan among political leaders and her supporters, who viewed her as victimized by the American criminal justice system.
In the years since, Pakistan officials have expressed interest publicly in any sort of deal or swap that could result in her release from U.S. custody, and her case has continued to draw attention from supporters. In 2018, for instance, an Ohio man who prosecutors say planned to fly to Texas and attack the prison where Siddiqui is being held in an attempt to free her was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
At about 9:15 p.m., CBS 11’s JD Miles reported that “a loud explosion was just heard coming from the congregation Beth Israel synagogue where a standoff has been going on for 10 hours with a hostage taker followed by what appeared to be gunshots.”
#Breaking A loud explosion was just heard coming from the congregation Beth Israel synagogue where a standoff has been going on for 10 hours with a hostage taker followed by what appeared to be gunshots
— J.D. Miles (@jdmiles11) January 16, 2022
At 9:36 p.m., Governor Greg Abbott tweeted that “all hostages are out alive and safe.” The suspect was shot during a rescue mission executed by SWAT and has died. It is unclear who fired the bullet.
Police said they identified the suspect, but could not release his name yet.
All hostages are out alive and safe.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 16, 2022
Sources confirmed to CBS 11’s Doug Dunbar that the elite FBI hostage rescue team, who flew into DFW earlier that evening, executed the explosion and entry.
#Breaking #ColleyvilleSynagogue sources confirm to me it was the elite FBI hostage rescue team which flew into DFW this evening, who executed the explosion and temple entry. All hostages are ok, and have spoken to officers. Fate of the hostage taker not yet clear. @CBSDFW
— Doug Dunbar (@cbs11doug) January 16, 2022
WATCH THE FULL POLICE, FBI NEWS CONFERENCE HERE
President Joe Biden Responds To Hostages’ Rescue
In a statement released late in the evening of Saturday, January 15, President Biden released a statement praising the law enforcement efforts:
Thanks to the courageous work of state, local and federal law enforcement, four Americans who were held hostage at a Texas synagogue will soon be home with their families. I am grateful to the tireless work of law enforcement at all levels who acted cooperatively and fearlessly to rescue the hostages. We are sending love and strength to the members of Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville, and the Jewish community.
There is more we will learn in the days ahead about the motivations of the hostage taker. But let me be clear to anyone who intends to spread hate—we will stand against anti-Semitism and against the rise of extremism in this country. That is who we are, and tonight, the men and women of law enforcement made us all proud.
Government And International Officials Respond
Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted that he was “closely monitoring the hostage situation” and prayed for the safety of the hostages and rescuers.
I am closely monitoring the hostage situation taking place in Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas.
We pray for the safety of the hostages and rescuers.
— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) January 15, 2022
Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that President Biden was aware of the situation and was receiving updates.
.@POTUS has been briefed about the developing hostage situation in the Dallas area. He will continue to receive updates from his senior team as the situation develops. Senior members of the national security team are also in touch with federal law enforcement leadership.
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) January 15, 2022
Dr. Nachman Shai, Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, prayed for an “immediate and safe end.”
Monitoring closely from Israel the hostage situation unfolding at Beth Israel Congregation where the Jewish community gathered for Shabbat services in Colleyville, Texas. Praying for an immediate and safe end.
— נחמן שי- Nachman Shai (@DrNachmanShai) January 15, 2022
Senator Ted Cruz said he and his wife Heidi are praying for the hostages and rescuers, and that he and his staff are closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with local and national authorities.
Heidi and I are praying for those at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville and for the SWAT team and all other law enforcement on the scene responding.
My staff and I are closely monitoring the situation and are in close contact with local and national authorities.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 15, 2022
Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne, whose district includes Colleyville, asked for others to join her “in praying for safety and quick resolution for all involved in Colleyville today.”
Join me in praying for safety and quick resolution for all involved in #Colleyville today. I’m monitoring the situation, speaking with officials, and will update when we know more.https://t.co/xNqOFxOIPQ
— Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne (@RepBethVanDuyne) January 15, 2022
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he was monitoring the situation and that Texas DPS was working closely with local and federal teams and, in a statement, asked Texans to pray for the safety of the congregants.
The Texas Dept. of Public Safety is on the scene of the tense hostage situation in Colleyville, Texas.
They are working with local and federal teams to achieve the best and safest outcome.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 15, 2022
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he is closely monitoring the operation and was ready to assist the Colleyville Police Department.
I am closely monitoring the Texas SWAT operation at a Dallas area synagogue today.
My office stands ready to assist the @ColleyvillePD.
— Texas Attorney General (@TXAG) January 15, 2022
United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham released the following statement after the resolution of the hostage situation at Colleyville’s Congregation Beth Israel this evening:
“Today is a testament to the fortitude of north Texas law enforcement. When the pivotal moment came, officers and agents stepped bravely into the fray. Our prayers are with the four freed hostages and the entire Jewish community tonight.”
In a statement, CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said:
“We strongly condemn the hostage-taking at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. This latest antisemitic attack at a house of worship is an unacceptable act of evil. We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community, and we pray that law enforcement authorities are able to swiftly and safely free the hostages. No cause can justify or excuse this crime. We are in contact with local community leaders to learn more and provide any assistance that we can.”
Muslim Advocates condemned the attack and stood in solidarity with the Rabbi and synagogue.
We are appalled by the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel and condemn this attack on a house of worship. We stand in solidarity with the rabbi and congregation. We pray for a peaceful end to this travesty and for the perpetrator to be brought to justice.
— Muslim Advocates (@MuslimAdvocates) January 15, 2022
Texas Congressman Craig Goldman asked others to join him in prayer for the Rabbi and his synagogue.
Please join me in prayer for the safety of Rabbi Charlie and all the congregants at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville.
— Craig Goldman (@GoldmanCraig) January 15, 2022
Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke sent strength to Colleyville.
Sending strength to Colleyville as another Texas community is tragically targeted by a gunman.
If you’re in the area, please heed the warnings of local officials and avoid the vicinity around the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue.
You can find updates in this thread. https://t.co/oWKGBeAcGf
— Beto O’Rourke (@BetoORourke) January 15, 2022
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the Dallas Police Department would deploy additional patrols to Dallas synagogues as a precaution.
As a precaution, @DallasPD is deploying additional patrols to Dallas synagogues and other sites. Police are working with the Jewish Federation and our local, state, and federal partners to monitor any concerns or threats based on the situation in Colleyville.
— Mayor Eric Johnson (@Johnson4Dallas) January 15, 2022
The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum said it was “horrified by the situation” and that it hoped for a “safe resolution.”
#dhhrm is horrified by the situation unfolding at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, where a gunman has taken hostages inside the synagogue. Our thoughts are with our neighbors and friends as we pray for a safe resolution.
— Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum (@dhhrm_org) January 15, 2022
Tarrant County Judge B. Glen Whitley said he and his wife were praying for the hostages and hoped for a peaceful resolution.
My wife and I are joining so many of you in praying for the hostages at Congregation Beth Israel and their families. May God guide the law enforcement at the scene and provide a peaceful resolution.
— Tarrant County Judge B. Glen Whitley (@judge_whitley) January 16, 2022
Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker and Fort Worth Chief of Police Neil Noakes offered their support and said Fort Worth Police would be taking steps to keep the city’s Jewish community safe.
— Mayor Mattie Parker (@MayorMattie) January 15, 2022
Los Angeles Police also announced they would be increasing patrols as a precautionary measure.
We’re closely following a hostage situation that is taking place at a synagogue in Colleyville, TX. We’re working with our federal partners, increasing patrols around synagogues in LA as a precautionary measure, and conducting community outreach to ensure the safety of Angelenos. https://t.co/ASQ9hRChVH
— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) January 15, 2022
(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)