US airman says train attacker 'ready to fight to the end'

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Americans in Train Attack Hailed as Heroes

PARIS (AP) -- Three American travelers say they relied on gut instinct and a close bond forged over years of friendship as they took down a heavily armed man on a passenger train speeding through Belgium.

U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, recounting for the first time on Sunday how a likely catastrophe was averted two days earlier, said the gunman, an assault rifle strapped to his bare chest, seemed like he was "ready to fight to the end." But he added, "So were we."

Without a note of bravado but a huge dose of humility, the three described Friday's drama on an Amsterdam-to-Paris fast train.

SEE ALSO: Obama hails Americans who took down gunman on train in France

His arm in a sling, Stone, 23, said he was coming out of a deep sleep when the gunman appeared.

One of his friends, Alek Skarlatos, a 22-year-old National Guardsman recently back from Afghanistan, "just hit me on the shoulder and said `Let's go.'"

French President Francois Hollande and a bevy of officials are presenting the Americans with the prestigious Legion of Honor on Monday. A French citizen who first came across the gunman near a train bathroom and a British man who joined to help tie up the assailant also are being honored with the award, according to the president's office.

The gunman, identified as 26-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani, is detained and being questioned by French counterterrorism police outside Paris. French and Spanish authorities say El-Khazzani is an Islamic extremist who may have spent time in Syria. El-Khazzani's lawyer said on Sunday that he was homeless and trying to rob passengers on the train to feed himself.

Authorities in France, Belgium and Spain, where he once lived, are investigating the case. French authorities can legally hold him for questioning until Tuesday, when they must charge him or free him.

His case raises questions about train security as well as how a man who had been on the radar of all three countries managed to board the train unbothered and loaded with weapons.

Skarlatos said El-Khazzani "clearly had no firearms training whatsoever," but if he "even just got lucky and did the right thing he would have been able to operate through all eight of those magazines and we would've all been in trouble, and probably wouldn't be here today, along with a lot of other people."

See more from the press conference here:

Train Attack Hero Anthony Sadler: 'Either Do Something, or Die'

Armed with an arsenal of weapons and apparently determined, he presented a formidable challenge to the vacationing friends who snapped into action out of what Skarlatos said was "gut instinct."

His and Stone's military training "mostly kicked in after the assailant was already subdued," he said, noting the medical care Stone provided and checking cars for weapons elsewhere.

"We just kind of acted. There wasn't much thinking going on," he said, at least on my end." Stone replied with a chuckle, "None at all."

Stone and Skarlatos moved in to tackle the gunman and take his gun. The third young man, Anthony Sadler, 23, moved in to help subdue the assailant. "All three of us started punching" him, Stone said. Stone said he choked him unconscious. A British businessman then joined in the fray.

Stone, of Carmichael, California, spoke at a live news conference at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Paris along with Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University in California, and Skarlatos, of Roseburg, Oregon.

See more of the hero passengers in the gallery below:

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US airman says train attacker 'ready to fight to the end'
French President Francois Hollande, second left, awards U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, center, while Alek Skarlatos a U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, applauds at the Elysee Palace, Monday Aug.24, 2015 in Paris, France. Hollande pinned the Legion of Honor medal on U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and their years-long friend Anthony Sadler, who subdued the gunman as he moved through the train with an assault rifle strapped to his bare chest. The British businessman, Chris Norman, also jumped into the fray. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool)
French President Francois Hollande, right, awards with the Legion of Honor Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California as British businessman Chris Norman, left, looks on at the Elysee Palace, Monday Aug.24, 2015 in Paris, France. Hollande pinned the Legion of Honor medal on U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and their years-long friend Anthony Sadler, who subdued the gunman as he moved through the train with an assault rifle strapped to his bare chest. The British businessman, Chris Norman, also jumped into the fray. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool)
From left : French President, Francois Hollande, U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Alek Skarlatos, U.S. Ambassador to France Jane D. Hartley, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California, pose for photographers as they leave the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, after being awarded with the French Legion of Honor by French President, Francois Hollande, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. French President Francois Hollande and a bevy of officials are presenting the Americans with the prestigious Legion of Honor on Monday. The three American travelers say they relied on gut instinct and a close bond forged over years of friendship as they took down a heavily armed man on a passenger train speeding through Belgium. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Legion of Honor medals for the three Americans and the British businessman, Chris Norman are pictured on a cushion at the Elysee Palace, Monday Aug.24, 2015 in Paris, France. French President Francois Hollande pinned the Legion of Honor medal on U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and their years-long friend Anthony Sadler, who subdued the gunman as he moved through the train with an assault rifle strapped to his bare chest. The British businessman, Chris Norman, also jumped into the fray. (AP Photo/Catherine Gaschka , Pool)
U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Alek Skarlatos, left, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, 2nd left, and Anthony Sadler, right, a senior at Sacramento University in California, leave the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, with U.S. Ambassador to France Jane D. Hartley after being awarded with the French Legion of Honor by French President, Francois Hollande, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. French President Francois Hollande and a bevy of officials are presenting the Americans with the prestigious Legion of Honor on Monday. The three American travelers say they relied on gut instinct and a close bond forged over years of friendship as they took down a heavily armed man on a passenger train speeding through Belgium. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Alek Skarlatos , left, waves to the media as he leaves the Elysee Place in Paris, France, with U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, after being awarded with the French Legion of Honor by French President, Francois Hollande, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. French President Francois Hollande and a bevy of officials are presenting the Americans with the prestigious Legion of Honor on Monday. The three American travelers say they relied on gut instinct and a close bond forged over years of friendship as they took down a heavily armed man on a passenger train speeding through Belgium. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California, left, U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Alek Skarlatos, right, and U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, second from left, pose for photographers with Jane D. Hartley, U.S. Ambassador to France, before a press conference held at the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Paris, France, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. Sadler, Skarlatos and Stone helped foil a potentially deadly attack when they subdued a man armed with an assault rifle and other weapons on board a high-speed train bound for Paris two days ago. The man was known to intelligence services in three countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California, second right, U.S. National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Alek Skarlatos, right, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, second from left, and U.S. Ambassador to France Jane D. Hartley take their seats before a press conference held at the US Ambassador's residence in Paris, France, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. Sadler, Skarlatos and Stone helped foil a potentially deadly attack when they subdued a man armed with an assault rifle and other weapons on board a high-speed train bound for Paris two days ago. The man was known to intelligence services in three countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
U.S. Airman Spencer Stone attends a press conference held at the US Ambassador's residence in Paris, France, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. Spencer Stone and two friends, Antony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos, helped foil a potentially deadly attack when they subdued a man armed with an assault rifle and other weapons on board a high-speed train bound for Paris two days ago. The man was known to intelligence services in three countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, right, seated next to U.S. Ambassador to France Jane D. Hartley, answers questions during a press conference held at the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Paris, France, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. Stone and two friends, Antony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos, helped foil a potentially deadly attack when they subdued a man armed with an assault rifle and other weapons on board a high-speed train bound for Paris two days ago. The man was known to intelligence services in three countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California attends a press conference held at the U.S. Ambassador's residence with Alek Skarlatos and U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, in Paris, France, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. Sadler, Skarlatos and Stone helped foil a potentially deadly attack when they subdued a man armed with an assault rifle and other weapons on board a high-speed train bound for Paris two days ago. The man was known to intelligence services in three countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Alek Skarlatos attends a press conference held at the U.S. Ambassador's residence with Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California, and U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, in Paris, France, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. Sadler, Skarlatos and Stone helped foil a potentially deadly attack when they subdued a man armed with an assault rifle and other weapons on board a high-speed train bound for Paris two days ago. The man was known to intelligence services in three countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
(From L) US ambassador to France Jane Hartley, off-duty US servicemen Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos smile during a press conference at the US embassy in Paris on August 23, 2015, two days after 25-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani opened fire on a Thalys train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Off-duty US serviceman Alek Skarlatos looks on during a press conference at the US embassy in Paris on August 23, 2015, two days after 25-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani opened fire on a Thalys train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Off-duty US servicemen Spencer Stone (R), Alek Skarlatos (2nd R) and US ambassador to France Jane Hartley (L) arrive to attend a press conference at the US embassy in Paris on August 23, 2015, two days after 25-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El-Khazzani opened fire on a Thalys train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Off-duty US Air Force Spencer Stone (L), one of the men to overpower the gunman who opened fire with an assault rifle on a high-speed train, gestures as he leaves the hopistal of Lesquin, northern France on August 22, 2015. On August 21, 2015, a gunman opened fire on the train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. Spencer Stone was first to the gunman who slashed him in the neck and almost sliced off his thumb with a box-cutter. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Anthony Sadler (L), from Pittsburg, California, and Alek Skarlatos from Roseburg, Oregon, hold their medals as they sit in a restaurant after a brief ceremony in the town of Arras, northern France, on August 21, 2015. The American servicemen overpowered a gunman armed with a Kalashnikov who opened fire on a high-speed train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris on August 20, 2015. (Photo by AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo made early Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, image obtained from the Facebook webpage of the mayor of Arras, Fredric Leturque, sits with passengers of the Thalys train who subdued a gunman as they display their medal after being awarded by the mayor of Arras, northern France, with left to right, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Briton Chris Norman. A gunman opened fire on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, wounding two people before three American and a Briton passengers subdued him, according to reports. American train passenger Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone was hospitalized with serious wounds after his part in tackling the gunman. (Arras City Hall via AP) 
In this image made from TV, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, left, sits with Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, who both helped overpower high-speed train attacker, talk to the media early Saturday Aug. 22, 2015, in Arras, France. Three Americans and a Briton are together being hailed as heroes for tackling and disarming a gunman aboard a high-speed train traveling between Amsterdam and Paris Friday evening. (AP Photo /APTN) 
Off-duty US Air Force Spencer Stone (L), one of the men to overpower the gunman who opened fire with an assault rifle on a high-speed train, gestures as he leaves the hopistal of Lesquin, northern France on August 22, 2015. On August 21, 2015, a gunman opened fire on the train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring two people before being tackled by several passengers including off-duty American servicemen. Spencer Stone was first to the gunman who slashed him in the neck and almost sliced off his thumb with a box-cutter. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
This undated photo provided Saturday Aug. 22, 2015, by the U.S. Air Force showing Airman First Class Spencer Stone, of the 65th Air Base Group, Lajes Air Base, Azores, Portugal. A gunman opened fire with an automatic weapon aboard a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, wounding several people before being subdued by passengers, officials said. Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone moved to subdue the gunman and was seriously injured before going to administer first aid to a wounded passenger, and was hospitalized Saturday after being stabbed in the attack, though the Pentagon said the injury was not life-threatening. (U.S. Air Force via AP Photo)
In this photo made early Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, image obtained from the Facebook webpage of the mayor of Arras, Fredric Leturque, passengers of the Thalys train who subdued a gunman sit together in Arras, northern France, with left to right, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Briton Chris Norman. A gunman opened fire on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, wounding two people before three American and a Briton passengers subdued him, according to reports. American train passenger Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone was hospitalized with serious wounds after his part in tackling the gunman. (Arras City Hall via AP) 
In this image made from TV, Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, and Briton Chris Norman, right, who both helped overpower high-speed train attacker, talk to the media early Saturday Aug. 22, 2015, in Arras, France. Three Americans and a Briton are being hailed as heroes for tackling and disarming a gunman aboard a high-speed train traveling between Amsterdam and Paris Friday evening. (AP Photo /APTN) 
Britain's Chris Norman speaks with the media at the police headquarters in Arras, northern France, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. A gunman prepared to open fire with an automatic weapon on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris Friday, wounding several people before being subdued by passengers, officials said. Norman, along with two others rushed to gunman and held him until police arrived. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
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Stone is also credited with saving a French-American teacher wounded in the neck with a gunshot wound and squirting blood. Stone described matter-of-factly that he "just stuck two of my fingers in his hole and found what I thought to be the artery, pushed down and the bleeding stopped." He said he kept the position until paramedics arrived, apparently in Arras.

El-Khezzani boarded in Brussels with what France's interior minister said was an arsenal of weapons that included an automatic pistol, numerous loaded magazines and the box cutter. He was subdued while the train traveled through Belgium, but was taken into custody in the northern French town of Arras, where the train was rerouted.

See more from the scene:

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US airman says train attacker 'ready to fight to the end'
In this photo provided by Christina Cathleen Coons, a person lies on the floor after an incident on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. A gunman opened fire on the train wounding several people before American passengers subdued him, according to officials and one of the Americans involved. (Christina Cathleen Coon via AP)
Members of the police forensics team take part in an investigation next to a Thalys train on the platform at Arras train station, northern France, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. A gunman opened fire with an automatic weapon on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris Friday, wounding several people before being subdued by passengers, officials said. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
In this photo provided by Christina Cathleen Coons, a man is detained on a train platform after an incident on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris, Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, in Arras, northern France. The gunman opened fire on the train wounding several people before American passengers subdued him, according to officials and one of the Americans involved. (Christina Cathleen Coon via AP)
Crime and forensic investigators stand on a platform next to a Thalys train of French national railway operator SNCF at the main train station in Arras, northern France, on August 21, 2015. A gunman opened fire on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring three people before being overpowered by passengers, French state rail company SNCF and rescue services said. Two of the victims were seriously injured and at least one suffered gunshot wounds, an SNCF spokesman said, adding that the assailant was armed with guns and knives. The motives behind the attack were not immediately known. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Thalys train of French national railway operator, SNCF, stands at the main train station in Arras, northern France, after a gunman opened fire injuring three people, Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. A spokesman for France's interior ministry says three people were wounded in a shooting on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris Friday. Speaking on French television BFM, Pierre-Henri Brandet says a suspect is in custody and the train has been evacuated in Arras, 115 miles (185 kilometers) north of Paris, where the train stopped after the attack. (AP Photo)
Police officers investigate on a platform next to a Thalys train at Arras train station, northern France, Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. A gunman opened fire with an automatic weapon on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris Friday, wounding three people before being subdued by two American passengers, officials said. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, speaking in Arras in northern France where the suspected was detained, said one of the Americans was hospitalized with serious wounds. (AP Photo)
An injured man is carried away on a stretcher from the train station of Arras, northern France, after being injured on August 21, 2015 when a gunman opened fire on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris. A heavily armed man opened fire on a high-speed train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris on August 21, injuring at least two people before being overpowered by passengers. AFP PHOTO / STRINGER (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Police arive to inspect the crime scene inside a Thalys train of French national railway operator SNCF at the main train station in Arras, northern France, on August 21, 2015. A gunman opened fire on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring three people before being overpowered by passengers, French state rail company SNCF and rescue services said. Two of the victims were seriously injured and at least one suffered gunshot wounds, an SNCF spokesman said, adding that the assailant was armed with guns and knives. The motives behind the attack were not immediately known. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
French soldiers patrol at Gare du Nord train station in Paris, France, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. A gunman prepared to open fire with an automatic weapon on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, wounding several people before being subdued by passengers, officials said. (AP Photo/Binta)
French police officers patrol at Gare du Nord train station in Paris, France, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. A gunman prepared to open fire with an automatic weapon on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, wounding several people before being subdued by passengers, officials said. (AP Photo/Binta)
Police work on a platform next to a Thalys train of French national railway operator SNCF at the main train station in Arras, northern France, on August 21, 2015. A gunman opened fire on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring three people before being overpowered by passengers, French state rail company SNCF and rescue services said. Two of the victims were seriously injured and at least one suffered gunshot wounds, an SNCF spokesman said, adding that the assailant was armed with guns and knives. The motives behind the attack were not immediately known. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
In this Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, image made from a video taken by Anthony Sadler, a bag and gun are seen on a train seat after an incident on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. The man who boarded the train with a rifle before being tackled by passengers was on the radar of authorities in multiple countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said. (Anthony Sadler/Youtube via AP)
In this Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, image made from a video taken by Anthony Sadler, American Spencer Stone, top, attends to an injured passenger after an incident on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. The man who boarded the train with a rifle before being tackled by Stone and other passengers, was on the radar of authorities in multiple countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said. (Anthony Sadler/Youtube via AP) 
In this Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, image made from a video taken by Anthony Sadler, a gunman lies on floor with arms tied behind his back, after an incident on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. The man who boarded the train with a rifle before being tackled by passengers was on the radar of authorities in multiple countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said. (Anthony Sadler/Youtube via AP)

In this Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, image made from a video taken by Anthony Sadler, a bag and gun are seen on a train seat after an incident on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. A gunman who boarded the train with a rifle before being tackled by passengers was on the radar of authorities in multiple countries and had ties to radical Islam, authorities said. (Anthony Sadler/Youtube via AP) 

Rescue workers are seen on a platform at the main train station in Arras, northern France, on August 21, 2015. A gunman opened fire on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring three people before being overpowered by passengers, French state rail company SNCF and rescue services said. Two of the victims were seriously injured and at least one suffered gunshot wounds, an SNCF spokesman said, adding that the assailant was armed with guns and knives. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
A Thalys train of French national railway operator SNCF stands at the main train station in Arras, northern France, on August 21, 2015. A gunman opened fire on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring three people before being overpowered by passengers, French state rail company SNCF and rescue services said. Two of the victims were seriously injured and at least one suffered gunshot wounds, an SNCF spokesman said, adding that the assailant was armed with guns and knives. The motives behind the attack were not immediately known. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
French police and train personnel stand outside the main train station in Arras, northern France, on August 21, 2015. A gunman opened fire on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring three people before being overpowered by passengers, French state rail company SNCF and rescue services said. Two of the victims were seriously injured and at least one suffered gunshot wounds, an SNCF spokesman said, adding that the assailant was armed with guns and knives. The motives behind the attack were not immediately known. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
French police stand inside the main train station in Arras, northern France, on August 21, 2015. A gunman opened fire on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring three people before being overpowered by passengers, French state rail company SNCF and rescue services said. Two of the victims were seriously injured and at least one suffered gunshot wounds, an SNCF spokesman said, adding that the assailant was armed with guns and knives. The motives behind the attack were not immediately known. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Police inspect a crime scene inside a Thalys train of French national railway operator SNCF at the main train station in Arras, northern France, on August 21, 2015. A gunman opened fire on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring three people before being overpowered by passengers, French state rail company SNCF and rescue services said. Two of the victims were seriously injured and at least one suffered gunshot wounds, an SNCF spokesman said, adding that the assailant was armed with guns and knives. The motives behind the attack were not immediately known. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Crime investigators look into the window of a Thalys train of French national railway operator SNCF at the main train station in Arras, northern France, on August 21, 2015. A gunman opened fire on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring three people before being overpowered by passengers, French state rail company SNCF and rescue services said. Two of the victims were seriously injured and at least one suffered gunshot wounds, an SNCF spokesman said, adding that the assailant was armed with guns and knives. The motives behind the attack were not immediately known. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
An ambulance stands outside the main train station in Arras, northern France, on August 21, 2015. A gunman opened fire on a train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris, injuring three people before being overpowered by passengers, French state rail company SNCF and rescue services said. Two of the victims were seriously injured and at least one suffered gunshot wounds, an SNCF spokesman said, adding that the assailant was armed with guns and knives. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
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El-Khezzani's lawyer said her client doesn't understand the suspicions, media attention or even that a person was wounded. For him, there were no gunshots fired, Sophie David said.

"He is dumbfounded that his action is being characterized as terrorism," she said.

He described himself as homeless and David said she had "no doubt" this was true, saying he was "very, very thin" as if suffering from malnutrition and "with a very wild look in his eyes."

He claims to have found the weapons in a park near the Brussels train station where he had been sleeping, stashed them for several days and then decided to hold up train passengers.

"He thought of a holdup to be able to feed himself, to have money," she said on BFM-TV, then "shoot out a window and jump out to escape."

Spanish authorities said El-Khazzani had lived with his parents in the southern city of Algeciras until last year and had a police record for drug-dealing. Spanish newspapers El Pais and El Mundo both reported that he had lived in the relatively poor neighborhood of El Saladillo, which has around 6,000 inhabitants and an unemployment rate close to 40 percent.

It was unclear how long he was in Spain.

However, Spain notified French intelligence in February 2014, and he was placed on a watch list of potentially dangerous individuals, Cazeneuve has said.

There were discrepancies between French and Spanish accounts of the gunman's travels.

An official linked to Spain's anti-terrorism unit said the suspect lived in Spain until 2014, then moved to France, traveled to Syria, and returned to France. That official spoke on condition anonymity because he wasn't authorized to be identified by name.

See more from the press conference here:

American Train Hero: 'He Just Kept Pulling More Weapons'

A French official close to the investigation said a watch list signal "sounded" on May 10 in Berlin, where El-Khazzani was flying to Turkey. The French transmitted this information to Spain, which advised on May 21 that he no longer lived there but in Belgium. The French then advised Belgium, according to the official close to the investigation, but it wasn't clear what, if any, action was taken after that.

He didn't escape the Americans as easily.

"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," U.S. Ambassador Jane Hartley said.

Asked if there were lessons, Sadler had one for all who find themselves in the face of a choice.

"Do something," he said. "Hiding, or sitting back, is not going to accomplish anything. And the gunman would've been successful if my friend Spencer had not gotten up. So I just want that lesson to be learned going forward, in times of, like, terror like that, please do something. Don't just stand by and watch."

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