Home Christian News Hostages Safe, Invader Dead as Standoff at Dallas-Area Synagogue Ends

Hostages Safe, Invader Dead as Standoff at Dallas-Area Synagogue Ends

hostages dallas area synagogue
A Texas state trooper blocks traffic on a road leading to a Colleyville, Texas, synagogue where a man apparently took hostages Jan. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Jake Bleiberg)

(RNS) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Saturday night that all hostages were safe after an 11-hour standoff inside a Dallas-area synagogue.

“Prayers answered. All hostages are out alive and safe,” Abbott tweeted at 9:33 p.m. Central Saturday (Jan. 15). Details about the rescue were not clear, but a source at the scene said the hostage taker is dead.

Abbott’s tweet came not long after a loud bang and what sounded like gunfire was heard coming from the synagogue, according to The Associated Press.

Police officers, FBI and a SWAT team were called to Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, shortly after noon following reports that a man had apparently taken four people hostage, including the rabbi. The hostage-taker’s identity had not been released as of Saturday evening.

Police were alerted by a rabbi in New York City, who had received a call from the rabbi believed to be held hostage in the synagogue, a law enforcement official told AP. The rabbi in New York called 911 to report the call.

Congregation Beth Israel had been holding online services when a man could be heard shouting on the livestream. Residents in the immediate area were evacuated.

An interfaith team of local clergy worked with the negotiators and assisted relatives of the hostages throughout the ordeal, including Pastor Bob Roberts, a co-founder of Multi-Faith Neighbors Network; Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom Dallas; and Imam Omar Suleiman, president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. Suleiman is a columnist for Religion News Service.

Shortly after 5 p.m. police reported that one hostage had been freed and did not require medical attention. That person was not the rabbi.

Authorities are still trying to discern a precise motive for the intruder’s actions. According to AP, the hostage-taker was heard demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist suspected of having ties to al-Qaida, who was convicted of trying to kill U.S. military officers while in custody in Afghanistan. The intruder also said he wanted to be able to speak with her, according to the officials. Siddiqui is in federal prison in Texas.

Initial reports that the hostage-taker was related to Siddiqui were incorrect, according to a source close to the case.

The congregation, on Pleasant Run Road, is a Reform synagogue of about 125 families. Its first and only rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker, has been with the synagogue since 2006. He was apparently conducting virtual services along with three others when the intruder walked in.

Texas resident Victoria Francis told the AP that she watched about an hour of the livestream before it cut out. She said she heard the man rant against America and claim he had a bomb.

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Yonat Shimron joined RNS in April 2011 and became managing editor in 2013. She was the religion reporter for The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. from 1996 to 2011. During that time she won numerous awards. She is a past president of the Religion Newswriters Association.