Americans Receive France's Highest Medal After Subduing Gunman

Monday, August 24, 2015

Three Americans were honored by French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace today, days after they subdued a gunman on a Paris-bound train.

Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and college student Anthony Sadler - childhood friends with ties to the Sacramento, California, area - received France's highest medal, making them Chevalier, knights of the Legion of Honour. They stood on a podium as Hollande spoke, then received their medals as the crowd applauded.

A fourth man, British businessman Chris Norman, was also honored today. Two other passengers, Mark Moogalian and another person who wished to remain anonymous, will reportedly be honored at a later time.

Hollande said the men showed "that faced with terror, we have the power to resist. You also gave a lesson in courage, in will, and thus in hope."

The friends were on the Amsterdam-to-Paris train Friday, car number 12. They moved to the car because of a bad Wi-Fi connection.

The gunman came out of the bathroom carrying an AK-47.

Moogalian, a French-American teaching at the Sorbonne, grabbed the AK-47, disarming the man, but didn't realize the gunman also had a pistol, according to a statement from his family. Moogalian was shot in the back as he turned to protect his wife. The bullet punctured his lung.

That's when the other three Americans leaped into action.

"Alek just hit me on the shoulder and said, 'Let's go,'" Stone said at a Sunday news conference.

The men grabbed the gunman's pistol, but the gunman fought back with a box cutter, the friends recalled.

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

Eventually, the gunman was subdued, tied up with the train conductor's necktie.

Stone helped Moogalian, who was bleeding from his neck.

"I was going to use my shirt at first, but I realized that wouldn't have worked, so I just stuck two of my fingers down into the hole, into what I thought to be the artery and pushed down and the bleeding stopped," Stone said.

The gunman - identified by French authorities using DNA as 25-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani - is detained and being questioned by French counterterrorism police outside Paris.

El-Khazzani's first lawyer, Sophie David, told ABC News in a phone interview that he denies planning an attack and says he wanted to rob passengers and escape by jumping off the train. The suspect also denies any ties or affiliation to terror groups or radical Islam, David said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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