Man who sold weapon to suspect in Colleyville synagogue standoff charged with federal firearm crime

A previously convicted felon was charged with a federal firearm crime after authorities say he sold a handgun to the suspect in the synagogue hostage situation earlier this month in Colleyville. (Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune, Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune)

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A man who allegedly sold a weapon in the Dallas area to the gunman who took four hostages in a North Texas synagogue earlier this month has been charged with a federal firearm crime, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday.

Henry “Michael” Williams, 32, was arrested on a state warrant in Texas on Monday, officials said. Williams is being charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to a statement from the U.S. Justice Department. Williams previously had been convicted for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and attempted possession of a controlled substance, officials said. Williams’ attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Authorities say Malik Faisal Akram held four hostages on Jan. 15 in a standoff that lasted around 11 hours at Colleyville’s Congregation Beth Israel, a synagogue northeast of Fort Worth. The FBI has said it is considering the incident a terrorist act and hate crime.

Williams initially told investigators he remembered meeting a man with a British accent but that he couldn’t remember his name, the Department of Justice said. Akram was a British citizen. After looking at a photo of Akram, Williams confirmed that he sold a handgun to him at an intersection in South Dallas, two days before Akram attacked the synagogue, the press release said. Williams allegedly told officers that Akram said the gun — a semi-automatic Taurus G2C pistol — was going to be used for “intimidation” against someone who owed him money. The weapon was later recovered from the scene of the standoff, officials said.

“Federal firearm laws are designed to keep guns from falling into dangerous hands. As a convicted felon, Mr. Williams was prohibited from carrying, acquiring, or selling firearms. Whether or not he 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,” said U.S. Attorney Chad E. Meacham in a statement.

Akram was in the U.S. on a tourist visa, according to the Associated Press. This means he wasn’t legally allowed to purchase a gun in the United States.

The Dallas FBI field office assisted in locating the seller, the Department of Justice said. Williams was tied to Akram through an analysis of cellphone records, which showed the two exchanged calls from Jan. 11 to 13. It’s unclear how Akram and Williams got into contact in the first place. Akram stayed in at least three North Texas homeless shelters prior to the attack, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Williams made his initial appearance on Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. His detention hearing is set to be held Monday, and the court ordered his confinement in a corrections facility in the meantime.

Attacks and hate crimes against Jewish people have been on the rise in the U.S., according to anti-hate groups. Religious leaders in Texas have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours to bolster security in their places of worship in recent years.