Americans Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos gave a live press conference from Paris, France on Sunday, August 23, covered by the top news wires from around the globe. The three friends stood up and fought a gunman on Friday to defend their fellow passengers on a European train. The three Americans who, reportedly “foiled [the] train attack,” spoke about the traumatic incident in response to questions posed by global media representatives.
Spencer Stone who serves in the Air Force recalled the events leading up to the derailed attack for the media, saying, “I just woke up from a deep sleep and my friend Alek was sitting next to me; Anthony was across to my right side … I turned around and I saw he had, it looked to be an AK-47, and it looked like it was jammed … and he was trying to charge the weapon and Alek just hit me on the shoulder and said, ‘let’s go.’ And, bent down, tackled him, we hit the ground, Alek came up and grabbed the gun out of his hand while I put him in a chokehold. Seemed like he just kept pulling more weapons … pulled out a handgun. Alek took that. Took out a box cutter. Started stabbing at me with that. We let go. All three of us started punching him, while he was in the middle of us. And, I was able to grab him again and choke him unconscious while Alek was hitting him in the head with the pistol or rifle.”
Alek Skarlatos — a member of the Oregon National Guard — said, “The gunshot was probably the first noise I heard, and then that was followed by some breaking glass … It was behind me, so I had no idea what he was aiming at or what he was going to do.”
Anthony Sadler, a senior at Cal State Sacramento, added, “Initially, after it happened — I realized the magnitude [the aftermath of their actions during that European train ride] — I didn’t quite understand all this would happen. I knew that it was something very serious because we were traveling internationally, and my two friends are off-duty military. So, I just knew that it would be bigger than just the initial investigation, but I had no idea it would be like this,” referring to the fanfare and press facing them at that moment.
In response to a question about the French passenger who had gone to the restroom and found himself face-to-face with the gunman, instinctively attempting to unarm him and causing a French-American passenger seated nearby to be wounded, Spencer replied, “I personally don’t have a lot of information on him. But, I heard that he had started the struggle at first. So, I feel like he deserves a lot of the credit because if it wasn’t for him maybe it could have been way different.”
Anthony responded to a question posed by a member of the French media concerning lessons learned from their intervention and civilians getting involved in such an incident, “These are my friends … I was the third one to get up … In times of crises … to do something. Hiding or sitting back is not going to accomplish anything. The gunman would have been successful if my friend Spencer had not gotten up … In times of terror like that, to please do something. Don’t just stand by and watch.”
Asked if their reactions to the potential terrorist could have been because of their military training, Alek responded, “Not necessarily. I mean, I didn’t really have much of a state of awareness. There wasn’t really a conscious decision. We just kind of acted. There wasn’t much thinking going on.”
Spencer and Anthony agreed. Anthony added “He [the gunman] never said a word. He just, basically, came in. And, when he went through the car, we saw him cocking the AK-47. So, I knew it was either do something or die.”
One America Network, one of the news networks that covered the live press release with three of the passengers dubbed as heroes, reported on Aug. 23 that 26-year-old Moroccan, Ayoub el Khazzani — the accused gunman taken down by the three men — claimed through his attorney that he is not an Islamic terrorist.
When asked about the gunman’s claim of not being a terrorist; that the three Americans were not supposed to be in “that carriage, in the first place” and that he was just “trying to rob the train,” Anthony replied, “We had first class tickets … We just decided to go to the car [first class] about half an hour into the train ride. And, to the point that he was ‘just trying to rob the train,’ it doesn’t take eight magazines to rob a train.”
Spencer added, “He seemed like he was ready to fight till the end. So, so were we.”
The three friends thanked everyone involved in the takedown, as well as the French people and officials who helped them during the past few days. Spencer, especially, thanked the medical professionals and hospital personnel who administered treatment to him for his injuries incurred at the hands of the gunman. The American airman had been treated and was released on Saturday, a day after incurring those injuries on that unforgettable train ride.