Federal prosecutors have charged a 32-year-old man with a federal firearm crime, alleging that he sold the gun used by the Colleyville, Texas, synagogue hostage-taker during the 11-hour standoff earlier this month.
According to a criminal complaint, Henry Williams, who was charged Tuesday with felon in possession of a firearm, allegedly sold a semiautomatic pistol to Malik Faisal Akram on January 13.
According to the FBI, Akram, a 44-year-old British national, held four people hostage at Congregation Beth Israel two days later. According to officials, he was killed by an FBI team after hostages were released or escaped from the synagogue near Dallas. The FBI is investigating the incident, which has heightened tensions in US Jewish communities, as a hate crime and an act of terrorism.
According to court records, Williams made his first court appearance on Wednesday.
FBI agents and local authorities worked “around the clock” to figure out how Akram obtained his weapon, according to Matthew DeSarno, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas field office. The question had been their investigation’s “primary gap,” according to DeSarno, who spoke at a news conference last week.
According to the complaint, authorities identified Williams by analyzing Akram’s cell phone records, which showed the two called each other several times between January 11 and 13. When federal investigators first approached Williams on January 16, he told them he met with a man with a British accent but couldn’t remember his name, according to the complaint. After being arrested on an outstanding state warrant, agents interviewed Williams again and showed him a photo of Akram, and he confirmed that was the person he sold the handgun to, according to the complaint.
Williams “stated that Akram told him the gun was going to be used for intimidation as Akram represented that he wanted it to try and get money from someone who had an outstanding debt with him,” according to the complaint.
According to the complaint, Williams was previously incarcerated for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and attempted possession of a controlled substance. He is still being held in detention pending a pretrial detention hearing on Monday.
“Federal firearms laws are intended to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people. Mr. Williams was prohibited from carrying, acquiring, or selling firearms as a convicted felon “In a statement, US Attorney Chad Meacham said. “Whether or not he was aware of his buyer’s nefarious intent is largely irrelevant; felons cannot have guns, period, and the Justice Department is determined to prosecute those who do.”
Also on Wednesday, two men were arrested in Manchester, England, as part of an investigation into the Texas synagogue standoff, according to Greater Manchester Police. UK counterterrorism investigators have been assisting US authorities in their investigation of the incident.
“Two men were arrested this morning in Manchester as part of the local investigation. They are still being held in custody for questioning “Greater Manchester Police confirmed the incident on Wednesday.
Last week, two men were arrested in the English cities of Birmingham and Manchester in connection with the standoff investigation and were detained for questioning, according to Greater Manchester Police, who did not elaborate at the time.
According to US investigators, Akram was motivated in part by a desire to see extremist Aafia Siddiqui released from an 86-year federal prison sentence in Fort Worth, Texas. Her attorney stated that she was not involved in the Colleyville standoff. According to a US law enforcement source familiar with the investigation, Akram arrived in the US in late December via New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
According to a UK official, Akram was known to UK security services and was the subject of a brief investigation in 2020. When authorities determined Akram was no longer a threat, the investigation was closed.
The incident has sparked outrage in Jewish communities across the country. The Anti-Defamation League warns that anti-Semitic attacks on Jews are on the rise. While the majority of anti-Semitic incidents involve harassment and vandalism, assaults have occurred as well, with at least six fatalities since 2016, including one at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue in 2018.