The gunman authorities say took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue in a 10-hour standoff that ended in his death arrived in the U.S. on a self-paid-for Virgin Atlantic flight on Dec. 29 and was questioned by customs agents for a few minutes before being allowed to proceed, three law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case said Tuesday.
There were no red flags in the system about any terror alert and no issue raised during questioning so, as a British national, Malik Faisal Akram was permitted to enter the country, the officials said. He had told family members he wanted to get married and was heading to the U.S., specifically Texas, to find a "Mexican bride."
The White House also confirmed Tuesday the 44-year-old Akram was checked against law enforcement databases and triggered no red flags when he came to the U.S. two days before New Year's Eve.
Akram stayed at a motel on Queens Boulevard for two days, then asked relatives in Britain for money for the flight to Texas to continue searching for his bride, the law enforcement officials said. Money was sent, and Akram took a New Year's Eve flight on American Airlines from JFK Airport in Queens to Dallas Fort Worth, they added.
He arrived around 9 p.m. that night and stayed at a motel near the airport, the law enforcement officials said. Akram's movements for the next few days remain under investigation, but the law enforcement officials said he visited an Islamic Center in Dallas and stayed at a Dallas area homeless shelter on Jan. 6, 11 and 12.
It was during that six-day stretch that law enforcement officials say Akram is believed to have bought the gun he used in the hostage situation on the street in the Dallas area. The gun he purchased had been stolen in 2020, the officials said.
On Jan. 15, armed with that weapon, officials say Akram entered Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville and took the hostages. At times during the hours-long standoff he said he wasn't going to hurt any of them, the law enforcement officials said, then started saying he was going to kill them.
A rabbi among the four hostages placed a phone call to a rabbi in New York City to place Akram's demands, which included freeing Aafia Siddiqui, who was referred to as his "sister" and is being held in a federal prison in Forth Worth, Texas. He also at one point demanded Siddiqui be brought to the synagogue and made comments suggesting he didn't expect to make it out of the synagogue alive.
The law enforcement officials said Akram chose the Colleyville house of worship because it was close to where Siddiqui is being held. They also saw he may have been casing the place at least a day in advance.
An investigation into the relationship between Akram and Siddiqui is ongoing. All of the hostages were rescued.