Moogalian recounts train attack in French magazine interview

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Man Credited as First to Stop Suspect in French Train Attack

PARIS (AP) — The first inkling Mark Moogalian had that something was amiss on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris was when he saw a man dragging his suitcase into the bathroom.

"I saw a young guy who looked strange, dragging a big, wheeled suitcase. It was unusual, strange," Moogalian said in an interview from his hospital bed published in Paris Match magazine on Wednesday.

Moogalian was shot and seriously wounded trying to stop a gunman armed with an assault rifle from moving through the train on Friday. The attacker was eventually overpowered by other passengers, including three American friends on vacation.

Noticing that the man seemed to be spending an unusually long time in the toilet, Moogalian went to investigate.

"I saw him come out of the toilet and another guy, who looked young, had grabbed him from behind and was trying to control him," Moogalian said in the magazine interview.

Photos of the hero passengers from the train attack:

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Moogalian recounts train attack in French magazine interview
(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)
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)
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Telling his wife to get to safety, Moogalian rushed at the gunman and wrenched an AKM assault rifle from his grip.

"I've got the weapon!" he yelled, and just then a shot rang out.

"I felt a giant pain in the back. I fell down between the seats. I dropped the weapon as I fell. I didn't know he had a handgun," Moogalian said.

The 51-year-old American musician and teacher, who has lived in France for more than two decades, was seated across from his wife in Wagon 12 on the high-speed train that had pulled out of Amsterdam's main station just over two hours earlier.

His wife, Isabelle Risacher Moogalian, told Europe-1 radio on Tuesday that "when my husband collapsed, I saw across the seats. He looked at me and he said 'I'm hit, I'm hit.' He thought it was over and he was going to die." The bullet struck him in the back and exited through the neck.

Speaking on France 2 television, Risacher Moogalian also heaped praise on Spencer Stone, one of the three Americans who helped subdue the attacker.

As Stone administered life-saving first aid on her husband even while bleeding profusely from his own wounds, he "spoke to him like it was his friend," she said. "'Hey man, after this we're going to go have a beer. Where are you from? Virginia? I'm from California, don't worry it's going to be fine.'"

Moogalian has emerged as another hero in the high-speed train attack thwarted by a group of quick-thinking men. According to French President Francois Hollande, a Frenchman was the first to encounter the gunman as he left the toilet, alerting others in the area. That person, Hollande said, wished to remain anonymous.

Moogalian remained hospitalized Wednesday in the northern city of Lille, and his sister said his role in trying to stop what French authorities are calling a terror attack was in character.

"Mark is one of the most compassionate people I've ever known. He's a free spirit. When he sets his mind on what he wants to do, he just does it," his sister, Jacqueline Moogalian-Pittman, said from Austell, Georgia.

Lying on the floor of the train compartment, Moogalian watched as the attacker approached and picked up the rifle. "He's going to kill me, I thought," Moogalian said. Closing his eyes to play dead, he then heard two individuals rush past and tackle the gunman.

French authorities have charged a 26-year-old Moroccan suspect, Ayoub El-Khazzani, with terrorism offences in the attack.

Moogalian runs a language school from a houseboat on the outskirts of Paris, according to the school's website. Music and art are clearly his passions, as his personal website attests, with its range of sculpture, paintings, photos and downloads of music he performs in a duo with his wife. In the couple's biography, they describe themselves as "largely bicultural, bringing the best of both worlds."

Moogalian and the Frenchman will receive the Legion of Honor, as did Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, U.S. Army Spc. Alek Skarlatos, their friend Anthony Sadler and British businessman Chris Norman.

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Associated Press writers Lori Hinnant in Paris, and Johnny Clark in Austell, Georgia contributed to this article.

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