‘Do something or die’: Americans who thwarted France train attack acted on guts


The three American 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.

“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.

Related: Suspected train attacker probed for links to ‘broader framework’

The three spoke for the first time together since the attack at the American Embassy in France Sunday.

“It looked like he just kept pulling more weapons left and right,” Stone echoed.

French Interior Minister Brenard Cazeneuve said the suspect, 26-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El Khazzani 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.

Skarlatos recalled being asleep when he heard a gunshot and acting immediately when Stone hit him on the shoulder and said, “let’s go.”

Stone, a first class airman, and Skarlatos, 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.”

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.

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.”

This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com