US Charges Texas Man Who Sold Gun to Colleyville Synagogue Terrorist
US authorities have charged a man who allegedly sold the gun used by Malik Faisal Akram to take four hostages at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
32-year-old Henry “Michael” Williams was charged Tuesday for being a felon in possession of a firearm, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham said in a statement.
He appeared before a federal judge Wednesday, with a detention hearing set for Jan. 31.
On Jan. 15, Akram took four people hostage at Colleyville’s Congregation Beth Israel during Shabbat services. The standoff ended after more than 10 hours, with the hostages escaping before Akram was killed.
Williams — who had previously been convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and attempted possession of a controlled substance — allegedly sold Akram a semiautomatic pistol just two days before the attack, the Justice Department said.
Authorities have pieced together the movements of the 44-year-old British citizen during the days before the hostage-taking, which US President Joe Biden called an “act of terror.” Despite holding a criminal record and previously being investigated by British intelligence, Akram raised no security flags when he entered the US at the end of December.
The FBI linked Williams to Akram by analyzing the latter’s cellphone records, which revealed a series of calls between the two from Jan. 11 to 13. When agents first interviewed Williams the day after the attack, he said he recalled meeting a man with a British accent.
Interviewed by the FBI days later, after his arrest on an outstanding state warrant, Williams identified a photo of Akram and confirmed he had made the sale for $150.
He told officers that Akram said he was going to use the weapon for “intimidation” against someone who owed him money, according to the criminal complaint.
The complaint also detailed that investigators found surveillance footage of Akram receiving $572 at a check cashing store on the morning of the 13th.
“Whether or not [Williams] 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,” Meacham commented. “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.”
Separately, also on Wednesday, police in England announced they had arrested two men in connection to the attack in Manchester, about 30 miles from Akram’s home town of Blackburn.
The two men remain in custody for questioning, the Greater Manchester Police’s Counter Terrorism Policing North West unit said. The same unit detaining two other men on Jan. 20 in Manchester in Birmingham, also for questioning in connection to the attack.