Two off-duty members of the U.S. military are being hailed as heroes in France–after they helped thwart a gunman on a crowded French train.
Alek Skarlatos, 22, a member of the National guard, and Spencer Stone, 23, a U.S. airman–along with their friend Anthony Sadler, 23–were on the high-speed rail from Paris to Amsterdam when they saw a gunman with an automatic weapon burst out of the toilet compartment.
Sadler describes the scene:
“As [the gunman] was cocking it to shoot it, Alek just yells, ‘Spencer, go!’ Spencer makes first contact, he tackles the guy, Alek wrestles the gun away from him, and the gunman pulls out a box cutter and slices Spencer a few times. And the three of us beat him until he was unconscious.”
“I knew we had to do something or he was just going to kill people,” Skarlatos added. “I mean he wasn’t shooting at the time, so I figured it was a good time to do it.”
The gunman, Ayoub el-Khazzani, a 25-year-old Moroccan man, was carrying multiple weapon and about 300 bullet rounds–so, while no one was hurt, there could’ve been considerable loss of life had the three vacationing Americans not intervened.
El-Khazzani and the Americans, who received minor injuries in the scuffle, were the only people on the train injured.
French President Francois Hollande praised their courage–and gave them the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor and the equivalent of a knighthood.
“In France you behaved as soldiers but also as responsible men,” Hollande said. “You put your life in danger to defend the idea of freedom.”