Politics

Texas man faces charges after selling gun to man who held hostages at synagogue

A Texas man has been charged with federal firearms crimes after allegedly having sold a pistol to Malik Faisal Akram, who later used the gun to kidnap hostages in a Texas synagogue earlier this month, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas announced Wednesday.

Henry “Michael” Williams has been charged with violating the law that makes it illegal for convicted felons to possess firearms. Williams, prosecutors say, had been previously convicted of crimes including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and was not allowed to own the gun he is accused of selling to Akram. 

Akram, a British citizen, traveled to the United States late last year, eventually making his way to Colleyville, Texas, where he took four members of the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue hostage at gunpoint. 

The hourslong armed hostage situation ultimately concluded with the hostages’ escape and Akram’s death on the night of January 15. 

Police Respond To Hostage Situation At Texas Synagogue
A law enforcement vehicle sits in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on January 16, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas, after a hostage standoff ended safely.

/ Getty Images


Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was one of the people taken hostage, told “CBS Mornings” that the situation seemed to be deteriorating near the end of the night, and he knew from attending security training sessions that “when your life is threatened, you need to do whatever you can to get to safety.”  

“I told them to go, I threw a chair at the gunman and I headed for the door,” he said. “And all three of us were able to get out without even a shot being fired.”

Investigators say Williams “recalled meeting a man with a British accent” and sold the man a semiautomatic Taurus G2C pistol on January 13.

“After viewing a photo of Mr. Akram,” Wednesday’s announcement from prosecutors says,  “Mr. Williams confirmed he sold Mr. Akram the handgun at an intersection in South Dallas.”

Two days later, Akram took the four members of the Beth Israel congregation hostage at gunpoint. 

“The Dallas FBI Field Office and our partners have worked around the clock since January 15, 2022 to determine how Malik Faisal Akram acquired the weapon he used to terrorize worshipers at Colleyville’s Congregation Beth Israel synagogue,” said Dallas FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno in Wednesday’s release, “Along with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners we pledge to continue our efforts to protect our communities from violence.”

Akram, who entered into the United States on December 29, was found to be in possession of just one firearm, a handgun he said he bought “on the street,” according to notes obtained by CBS News from a conference call led by FBI Director Christopher Wray.

The gun was last sold in Texas in September 2019. Akram came alone to New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, through the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, according to a joint intelligence bulletin issued earlier this month and obtained by CBS News.

According to the bulletin, Akram “told hostages he possessed guns and bombs and that he was ‘not afraid to pull the strings.'” As the situation escalated, hostages escaped and were secured by FBI tactical teams at 10:11 p.m. local time. But law enforcement who cleared the scene later determined no explosive devices were present.

The gunman’s entrance into the U.S. was approved by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA. Tourism visas are not required for British travelers planning to stay in the United States for less than three months.

“The individual was vetted through several federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies’ databases at various stages,” a DHS spokesperson told CBS News, last week. “No derogatory information associated with this individual was found prior to his travel to the United States or upon his arrival at the U.S. Port of Entry.”

FBI agents have been scouring homeless shelters in Texas, speaking with people there to try to trace Akram’s movements, a senior U.S. official told CBS News. 

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