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911 Calls Detail Synagogue Hostage-Taking

Crime

A police SUV sits outside the synagogue | Image by Brandon Bell/Getty Images

One year after a gunman terrorized a synagogue and took four people hostage, 911 recordings reveal details of the tense hostage situation.

Frantic 911 calls flooded emergency call centers on January 15, 2022. Local news outlet WFAA was able to obtain recordings from the phone calls made that day.

“Someone is in our synagogue yelling at the rabbi obscenities,” one 911 caller said early in the incident.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker also called 911. The call lasted more than an hour and forty minutes.

“I’ve got someone who has a gun, and he says he has two bombs,” said Cytron-Walker to a 911 dispatcher.

The call grew more intense during its duration, and it became increasingly volatile as the gunman, Malik Faisal Akram, at one point took the phone from Cytron-Walker and spoke directly to the dispatcher aggressively.

“I love death, more than you love life. I love death more than you [expletive] love life,” said Akram.

“I have three bombs here my dear, you wanna [expletive] catch me? I’m gonna tell you what I need. In the next hour and a half, Jewish people are gonna die if you don’t [expletive] comply.

“If this bomb goes, I’m gonna kill innocent [expletive] Texans, and I love Texas people,” Akram added.

One woman called 911 and said her husband was in the synagogue.

“My husband’s inside … his name is Shane,” the caller explained.

Hours into the standoff, one hostage, 86-year-old Lawrence Schwartz, was released.

Police bodycam footage showed Schwartz being helped into a vehicle and speaking to officers.

“Can I call my wife?” Schwartz asked.

“You can call anybody you want,” an officer responded.

“I just wanna let her know that I’m alright,” Schwartz said.

It wasn’t until later, though, when Akram became distracted, that the other hostages were able to escape. When the moment arrived, Cytron-Walker yelled for the other two hostages to run and threw a chair at Akram.

All three of the hostages — Jeff Cohen, Shane Woodward, and Cytron-Walker — then rushed toward an exit and bolted out a door. Akram was killed by a hostage rescue team.

The episode was one of many violent ones across Dallas in 2022, as the city council oversaw a yearlong crime wave and consistent spikes in various types of criminal incidents.

Recently, the Congregation Beth Israel provided a statement on the January 15 attack.

“As we approach the first anniversary of the attack on Congregation Beth Israel and our community, we want to let everyone know that we are recovering. It has been a difficult and challenging year, but we are healing, grateful, strengthened, and optimistic,” the statement read.

“To our friends in the community from all backgrounds; Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, secular and religious, civilian and law enforcement, government and private – thank you for being here with us and for us,” it continued.

“On that horrible day and the months that followed, you showed, by your actions and words, what Community is and what Community can be. We will never forget your many kindnesses and we again express our profound appreciation.”

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