By Sharon Wisch-Ray
Updated at 9:45 p.m.
The hostage crisis at Congregation Beth Israel is over. At about 9:20 p.m., the TJP learned that the hostages were safe and that law enforcement was safe. The perpetrator is deceased.
CNN’s Ed Lavandera reported hearing a loud explosion and a brief series of rapid gunfire around 9:15 p.m.
Governor Greg Abbott tweeted “All hostages are out alive and safe.”
One of the four hostages was release unharmed around 6:30 p.m. Saturday, evening at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville. It is expected that he will be immediately debriefed, according to law enforcement sources.
The hostage situation unfolded at the synagogue earlier Saturday, Jan. 15, during Shabbat services. Colleyville police confirmed in a tweet earlier in the day that they are conducting SWAT operations in the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Road, which is the location of Congregation Beth Israel.
The call went out to the Colleyville Police Department at approximately 10:41 a.m.
“Officers arrived on scene and observed an emergency situation that warranted evacuation of the surrounding areas and an external perimeter was established. The Colleyville Police Department is on scene, along with the FBI’s Dallas Field Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, North Tarrant Regional SWAT Team, and other neighboring agencies,” according to a news release from the Colleyville Police Department.
The FBI is leading negotiations with the hostage-taker. The White House is also “monitoring” the situation, per reports. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also said in a tweet that he was “closely monitoring” the situation.
The Shabbat services were being livestreamed and the alleged perpetrator could be heard talking and ranting on Facebook Live. Shortly before 2 p.m., the livestream was taken down.
The man sought the freedom of Aafia Siddiqui, a relative by marriage of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the chief architect of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Aafia Siddiqui is serving an 86-year sentence in the Fort Worth area for attempting to kill American military personnel after she was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 on suspicion of plotting attacks in New York.
There were four hostages: Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, CBI’s first full-time rabbi, who has been with the congregation since 2006 and other congregants.
The Community Security Initiative issued an alert to Jewish community leaders of its constituent organizations via automated phone calls, text and email. The alert stated that the incident is thought to be isolated.
“Until this situation has be resolved, please ensure your facility has its security protocols in place, and if your facility has services at this time, utilize your security planning to ensure your facility/campus is secure,” according to the alert, issued by Federation Community Security Director Bill Humphrey.
Local police have stepped up patrols at synagogues around North Texas.
JTA’s Ron Kampeas contributed to this report.