It was the shattering glass that made them turn around.
And once Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos realized a man was brandishing an AK-47 aboard their train from Amsterdam to Paris, it didn’t take long for the childhood friends to figure out what to do.
“My friend Alek just told Spencer, ‘Go get him,’” and “Spencer gets up in a split second and runs down the car and arrests the guy before he can shoot,” Sadler said during a press conference Saturday.
The men — who all grew up in the Sacramento area — in short order tackled the man, wrestled him to the ground, then tied him, saving themselves and passengers and becoming international heroes overnight. French police Saturday identified the gunman as Ayoub El Khazani, 25.
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Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel described the incident as a terrorist attack.
Sadler’s father, Anthony Sadler Jr., in a brief from his Rancho Cordova home, said Saturday that the three friends knew they had to act when they saw the staff running to the back of the train to try to subdue the gunman.
“At that point, it was killed or be killed,” said Sadler Jr., who spoke to his son by phone after the incident. “They kept fighting until they were able to disarm the man.”
Stone, 22, of Carmichael was stabbed with a box cutter during the struggle with El Khazani. Despite his injuries, Stone, who has some paramedic training, aided a passenger whose throat had been cut. Stone was released from the hospital Saturday, according to media reports. Skarlatos, from Oregon, said Stone almost lost his thumb.
Stone is in the Air Force and recently returned from Afghanistan.
“I’m really proud that Spencer was able to save that guy’s life. ... It was amazing to watch,” Sadler, 23, said during the press conference.
A fourth passenger helped tie El Khazani until the authorities arrived, Sadler said.
Sadler, a senior and kinesiology major at Sacramento State University, was traveling with Skarlatos, an Oregon National Guardsman, and Stone, who is stationed at Lajes Air Base in Azores. They left roughly 10 days ago, according to Stone’s public Facebook page.
Gen. Philip Breedlove, commanding officer of the U.S. European Command, praised the actions of the three men.
“Actions like this clearly illustrate the courage and commitment our young men and women have all the time, whether they are on duty or on leave,” Breedlove said in a statement released by the Pentagon.