The Department of Justice announced earlier this week that the British citizen who allegedly took four people hostage at a Colleyville synagogue purchased a gun from Henry “Michael” Williams, a North Texas man who’d previously been charged with a felony.
Williams was arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Nataly Keomoungkhoun, breaking news reporter for The Dallas Morning News, spoke to the Texas Standard about the arrest, and the questions that still remain in the case. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: We should stress that these are allegations made by the FBI, but the man believed to have sold the gun used at the synagogue is Henry “Michael” Williams. What else is known about him?
Nataly Keomoungkhoun: The Justice Department released a press release two days ago that said that Williams, who has been convicted of aggravated assault and drug charges in Dallas County, faces a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. And FBI agents linked Williams to a crime through [alleged hostage-taker Malik Faisal] Akram’s cell phone records, which showed that they had contacted each other from January 11 to January 13 and they were in the same area on January 13. And not much else is known besides that.
So Akram and Williams had been in touch. I read somewhere – maybe you can correct me if I’m wrong here – that the two met at a street corner in North Texas.
Yes, that’s right. During the investigation, Williams was questioned after he was arrested on an outstanding warrant earlier this week. and after he saw a photo of Akram, he confirmed that he sold the gun to him at an intersection in South Dallas, but that specific intersection is not known.
You mentioned these dates. Was Akram already in the U.S. at the time that the two apparently made telephone contact?
Yes. So as far as we know, Akram got to the U.S. around December 29 on a flight to JFK International Airport in New York. It’s unclear how he got from New York to Texas, but while he was here in Texas, he stayed at a few homeless shelters. He may have stayed at a motel in Irving, other news sources have reported. But it’s unclear exactly where else he was staying while he was in North Texas. But he had been here for a while before that January 15 hostage taking.
You mentioned that Williams himself was a convicted felon and it’s illegal for a felon to own a firearm. Is it clear where Williams got this pistol that he apparently has admitted he sold to Akram
It’s not clear. Investigators haven’t told us much. Besides that, Williams was arrested for being in possession of a firearm, but [we have] no idea where he got that.
Is it clear how Williams and Akram might have come to know each other? Was there some kind of classified ad online or something or any of those pieces coming together?
Unfortunately, no. There’s no idea what their connection may have been if they knew each other beforehand. If Williams had possibly taken Akram to a homeless shelter later. All of those details are still up in the air in terms of how the two met.
What big questions still remain about Akram’s time in Texas, from what you can tell?
From our point of view, it’s kind of seeing where Akram stayed – because it looks like he was in and out of homeless shelters – how he was getting around, who he may have known in the area. According to one of the homeless shelters, he was dropped off by somebody and hugged the person who had dropped him off. So maybe he knew somebody in the area. But again, none of those details are known. None of that is being made available to the public just yet.
It also seems that there have been more arrests in the UK. Have you been hearing about that?
Yes. At least six people total have been arrested. Two have since been released, according to some other news outlets. The two that were released were actually Akram’s sons. But that’s not yet been confirmed. And four men total have been arrested; two last Thursday, who are still in police custody. And then two, two days ago on the 26th, who are also still in police custody. And in Great Britain, they don’t actually release the connection or why they arrested somebody or details leading to that arrest. So we won’t know until they’re actually charged.