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'Do Something or Die': Americans Who Thwarted France Train Attack Acted on Guts

The three Americans being hailed for thwarting an attack on an Amsterdam-Paris train said the gunman could have done more harm had they not acted.
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The three U.S. men who are being hailed as heroes for thwarting an attack on a Amsterdam-Paris train said the gunman could have done a lot more harm had they not acted on instinct and ambushed the gunman.

"The guy had a lot of ammo. His intentions were pretty clear," said Alek Skarlatos, who with fellow Americans Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler and a British man, Chris Norman, rushed an assailant on the high-speed train after they heard a gunshot Friday.

"It looked like he just kept pulling more weapons left and right," Stone, 23, said.

"He never said a word. ... We saw him cocking the AK-47, so at that time it was either do something or die," said Sadler, 23. "Hiding or sitting back is not going to accomplish anything."

The three spoke at a news conference Sunday at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Paris.

French Interior Minister Brenard Cazeneuve said the suspect, Ayoub El Khazzani, a Moroccan, might have links to radical Islam, but his lawyer said on French television that he was merely trying to rob the train.

"It doesn't take eight magazines to rob a train," Sadler said. "The gunman would have been successful if my friend Spencer hadn't gotten up," he added.

Stone recalled being asleep when he heard a gunshot and acting immediately when Skarlatos hit him on the shoulder and said, "Let's go." At that point, the gun "looked like it was jammed," Stone said.

Stone, a first-class airman, and Skarlatos, 22, an Oregon National Guardsman, said their military training didn't come into play until after the gunman was subdued.

"In the beginning ,it was basically just gut instinct," Skarlatos said. "We just kind of acted. There wasn't much thinking going on."

Related: Families Not Surprised U.S. Men Stopped Train Attacker

Stone said he acted in the interest of "survival" for him, his friends and everyone else on the train. "He seemed like he was willing to fight to the end — so were we," he said.

Stone, who was stabbed while fighting the assailant, recalled helping another injured passenger who was "squirting blood."

And he was quick to share accolades, saying: "Everyone played their own part. No one is specifically to praise."

Stone also expressed gratitude to the first responders and the medical team who operated on his gashed hand, adding, "I just want to say thank you."

U.S. Ambassador Jane Hartley praised the three Americans, calling them heroes. "We often use the word 'hero,' and in this case, I know that word has never been more appropriate," Hartley said.

"They are truly heroes. When most of us would run away, Spencer, Alek and Anthony ran into the line of fire, saying 'Let's go.' Those words changed the fate of many."