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'It didn't look good': How the Colleyville rabbi and 2 other hostages escaped their synagogue

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and three others were held hostage inside Congregation Beth Israel on Saturday.

DALLAS — The standoff had lasted more than 11 hours, and Charlie Cytron-Walker, the rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel, knew the situation wasn't improving.

Cytron-Walker and two other men were still being held hostage, as they had been most of the day Saturday, inside their synagogue in Colleyville. None of the hostages had been hurt. 

But the suspect, Malik Faisal Akram, had a gun, and "he wasn't getting what he wanted," Cytron-Walker said Monday in an interview with CBS Morning News.

"It didn't look good," Cytron-Walker told the network. "It didn't sound good."

So, Cytron-Walker looked for an opening. When Akram "wasn't in a good position," Cytron-Walker made sure the other two hostages were ready.

Cytron-Walker then told them to flee, as he threw a chair toward Akram. The three hostages bolted for the door and escaped, a moment captured on video by WFAA

Moments later, Akram stepped outside the door, with an apparent gun in his hand, according to the WFAA footage.

From there, a loud bang could be heard, as authorities entered the synagogue. The standoff ended with Akram dead and all four hostages unharmed, authorities said.

Watch WFAA video of how the hostages escaped:

Cytron-Walker, in his first known interview since the hostage situation, explained to CBS Morning News how Akram arrived at the synagogue. 

Cytron-Walker said Akram had knocked on the door, and he let him inside - not knowing his intentions and believing he needed shelter - and made him tea. At first, Cytron-Walker "didn't hear anything suspicious," he said, though some of Akram's story didn't add up.

"But that's not necessarily an uncommon thing" for people who show up at the synagogue, Cytron-Walker said.

The service Saturday morning was being held virtually and streamed on the Congregation Beth Israel Facebook page, so only Cytron-Walker and several others were inside the building.

As they began to pray, Cytron-Walker said he heard a click at his back and turned to Akram.

"It could have been anything," Cytron-Walker said. "It turned out that it was his gun."

Police initially responded to the synagogue about 10:40 a.m. Saturday, and the hostage situation lasted through the afternoon and into the evening hours. Around 5 p.m., one hostage was released, but Cytron-Walker and two others remained inside.

Cytron-Walker said he tried to remain calm. He and others at the synagogue have taken security courses through Colleyville police, the FBI and the Anti-Defamation League, and Cytron-Walker said that training helped Saturday. 

Experts like Greg Shaffer, a security expert and retired FBI agent who also served on the hostage rescue team, said Cytron-Walker did exactly the right thing.

"By the rabbi staying calm at the beginning, it helped to stabilize the situation where the negotiators were able to go in and talk to the individual and gather that knowledge," Shaffer said.

He added that Cytron-Walker's timing was perfect, and throwing the chair - a great distraction.

"Had he tried that earlier when negotiations were still going on, that may not have had the same end result," Shaffer said. "I think his timing was impeccable and his actions were great."

In a statement Sunday, Cytron-Walker said "we are alive today because of that education."

But the training didn't make the situation any less difficult.

"It was terrifying," Cytron-Walker told CBS Morning News. "It was overwhelming. And we're still processing. It's been a lot."

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