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'I Did Not Think We Would Get Out': Congregation Beth Israel Hostage Shares Terrifying Experience

The full interview with Jeffrey Cohen is at the bottom of this post.

COLLEYVILLE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - Jeffery Cohen, one of the four hostages held at gunpoint inside Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville Saturday, Jan. 15 spoke to CBS 11 about the long and frightening ordeal.

He along with two others, were held for 11 hours before escaping on their own.

Another hostage had been allowed to leave earlier in the day.

"It wasn't until later that he actually let us call our family. And at that point I did. I called my wife, I called my daughter, called my son and very quickly left a Facebook message," Cohen said. "I generally did not think we would get out. So I wanted to say something."

Jeffrey Cohen
Jeffrey Cohen (via Zoom)

Cohen told CBS 11 that Rabbi Charlie Cytron Walker, and two others with him planned to escape when they could.

Cohen said the hostage taker, identified as Malik Faisal Akram, became very belligerent about 30 minutes before their escape.

He said when they challenged him at one point, he backed off, which was key.

"He said he was going to shoot each of us put a bullet in each of us," said Cohen. "And that was the first time that he said that. And then just a few moments later, he said, I'm gonna make you get down on your knees, get down on your knees. At that point I reached in my chair and I got up like this. And I know I stared right at him. And I may have shaved my head like this. I don't recall. But I know I mouthed. No. And just that that glare was the first time that we had showed any aggression toward him. We weren't subservient. At that point. He started backing away immediately. And he went and sat down. Now I didn't see him put his gun down. But I did see him go to pour some soda. And when he did that, Rabbi picked up the chair and threw it. I didn't see the chair go until I was running."

Cohen said the law enforcement officers told him to run to the front of the synagogue.

"I tripped as I was going out and we've got a hedgerow there and I thought that I was going to go through the hedgerow I started climbing under it."

Jack Fink: "You fell to the ground and had to get up. And were you worried that he was going to catch you and kill you?"

Jeffrey Cohen: "Yes, a little bit. But I was more concentrated on getting through that hedge-row."

He said the hostage taker selected Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville because he thought they could help gain the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who's serving an 86-year prison sentence in Fort Worth for attempting to murder U.S. soldiers.

"He bought into the anti-semitic tropes, that Jews control the world Jews control the media, Jews control the banks. And because he believed this, he genuinely thought that we could call up President Biden that we could call up President Trump and have them release her because we're Jews, and we have all this power."

Fink: "Did he ever go on a rant and a tirade of anti-semitism?"

Cohen: "He did. anti-semitism, anti-Zionism, anti-U.S., anti-Israel, anti-women, anti-gay, anti-blacks. There was not one. One group he didn't try it, oh, anti-Muslim. He went after everybody."

Cohen described the moment he saw his family for the first time following the ordeal.

"When we reunited later at Colleyville Elementary School, and this is after midnight, after we've been debriefed, you know, tears flow. The bodies shake."



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