One of three Americans hailed as heroes for approaching a suspected Islamic State gunman on a train to Paris testified at the man’s trial on Friday that he attempted to kill him.
Alek Skarlatos told the Paris court he snatched a pistol from the attacker’s hand, turned it on him and pulled the trigger, but the gun did not fire.
“I was doing my best to kill him or hold him back,” Skarlatos said.
The suspect in the attack, Ayoub El Khazzani, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of attempted terrorist murder. The 31-year-old Moroccan is on trial with three suspected accomplices.
Memories in court this week of passengers disarming the attacker on the Amsterdam train highlighted split-second decisions that foiled what could have turned out to be a mass slaughter. The heroism of the passengers of August 21, 2015 inspired Clint Eastwood to make a Hollywood film reconstituting the dramatic events: “The 15:17 in Paris”.
Skarlatos and two other longtime friends were on vacation together. They grew up together in California. One of the friends, Spencer Stone, managed to immobilize the attacker in a stranglehold. Skarlatos also moved in, joined by another passenger once the shooter was on the ground.
It “was surprisingly difficult to control,” Skarlatos said.
With the attacker under control, the train rerouted to Arras in northern France, where El Khazzani was arrested.
Authorities say El Khazzani boarded the train to Brussels armed with the Kalashnikov, nine clips of 30 rounds each, an automatic pistol and a cutter.
Once on the train, El Khazzani lingered in the toilet between the cars, where two other passengers confronted him, and then emerged shirtless with his guns on.