By Debbie Gregory.
French President Francois Hollande awarded the Legion d’Honneur to four men who put their personal safety aside to overpower a gunman on a train in France.
Americans Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler, and Briton Chris Norman heroically attacked the suspect aboard the high-speed Thylas train, traveling from Amsterdam to Paris last week. “By their courage, they saved lives,” Hollande said. “They gave us an example of what is possible to do in these kinds of situations.”
Hollande expressed his gratitude for their bravery, as well as that of the 28-year-old French professor who was the first to tackle the gunman but did “not want his name to be made public.” Hollande said he would award the medal to Mark Moogalian, the American-born French academic who is still in a hospital as soon as possible.
Moogalian, who was travelling with his wife, was suspicious of the suspect because he entered the toilet with his suitcase and stayed inside a long time. When the suspect came out, Moogalian saw that he had a weapon and tried to remove it. He was shot in the neck with a Luger.
“He seemed like he was ready to fight to the end. So were we,” said Spencer Stone.
They punched the suspect, choked him and hit him with his own weapons. They finally restrained him before the train pulled up in Arras in northern France.
Although he was badly cut in the struggle, Stone was able to apply pressure to Moogalian’s neck to control the bleeding.
The alleged gunman, identified as Moroccan national Ayoub El Khazzani, carried an AK-47 assault weapon, in addition to the Luger, ammo, and a box cutter.
Sadler, Stone and Skarlatos reportedly met in middle school in California and planned on spending the summer sightseeing together. It was Sadler’s first trip to Europe, and National Guardsman Skarlatos was on a month-long break after serving in Afghanistan. Stone is an Air Force serviceman.
“We are here to honor four men who, thanks to their bravery, managed to save lives,” Hollande said at the ceremony. “They showed what could be done in terrible circumstances. You put your lives at risk in order to defend freedom.” Hollande continued. “You behaved like soldiers but also as men, responsible men.”