Man charged with selling gun to synagogue hostage-taker – New York Daily News – New York Daily News


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The man who sold Malik Faisal Akram the weapon used to hold four hostages at gunpoint inside a Texas synagogue earlier this month has been federally charged.

Henry “Michael” Williams, 32, has been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Texas announced Wednesday.

Williams, who was previously convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and attempted possession of a controlled substance, sold Akram the semiautomatic Taurus G2C pistol on Jan. 13, according to prosecutors.

Two days later, Akram brought the pistol to Congregation Beth Israel, where he held four people, including the rabbi, hostage for almost 11 hours.

Malik Faisal Akram

Malik Faisal Akram (AP)

Williams, who was traced to Akram through cell phone records, allegedly told police that Akram told him the gun was going to be used for “intimidation” to collect money from someone with an outstanding debt.

“Federal firearm laws are designed to keep guns from falling into dangerous hands. As a convicted felon, Mr. Williams was prohibited from carrying, acquiring, or selling firearms. Whether or not he knew of his buyer’s nefarious intent is largely irrelevant — felons cannot have guns, period, and the Justice Department is committed to prosecuting those who do,” U.S. Attorney Chad E. Meacham said in a statement.

“We are grateful to the many officers and agents who sprang into action as soon as the synagogue hostage crisis began, and who worked tirelessly to track the weapon from Mr. Akram to Mr. Williams. The freed hostages, the Beth Israel congregation, and indeed the entire Jewish community deserve that support.”

The pistol was found inside the synagogue after FBI agents breached the building, killing Akram in the process.

On a live stream from inside the synagogue, Akram called for the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist and suspected Al Qaeda associate serving 86 years in a Fort Worth prison for shooting at U.S. military officers while in custody in Afghanistan, referring to her as his “sister.” Her lawyer previously told the Daily News that Akram has “no connection with the family whatsoever” and “he has also no connection to the Free Aafia movement inside the US.”

The FBI is investigating the hostage situation as both terrorism and a hate crime.

The first hostage was released around 5 p.m. on Jan. 15. The other three escaped unharmed when Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker threw a chair at Akram to distract him and fled out a side door.

“During the day, I remained calm — I know, those who know me won’t believe it — I never raised my voice or made a quick move. Everything was deliberate,” Jeffrey Cohen, one of the congregants held hostage, wrote on Facebook.

“When he let us call our families, I called my wife, daughter, and son. I also posted here on Facebook. Many of you saw that post, I’m sure. To be perfectly honest, at that point, I figured we had few options and little chance of survival. With my feet, I slowly moved a few chairs in front of me. Anything to slow or divert a bullet or shrapnel.”

Akram had previously been investigated by British counterintelligence agency MI5 as a possible terrorist, but was cleared and never put on a no-fly list, according to the Guardian.

The FBI has said Akram seemingly acted alone, but British police arrested two people in Manchester, England, Wednesday morning for questioning in connection with the hostage-taking. Two other men were arrested last week, one in Manchester and one in Birmingham, but have since been released. Two unidentified teenagers were also taken into custody in Manchester and released.

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