The mystery identity of the first heroic passenger to wrestle a weapon from the high-speed train gunman can be disclosed for the first time by The Telegraph.
Mark Moogalian, a 51-year-old professor at the Sorbonne, tackled Ayoub El-Khazzani during Friday’s bloody incident aboard an Amsterdam-Paris international service.Francois Hollande, the French President, has announced he will award Mr Moogalian the Legion d'Honneur, the country's highest decoration, as soon as he is well enough.
Mr Moogalian, who lives in Paris but is originally from Midlothian, Virginia, US, is the previously unnamed man who came to the aid of “Damien A”, 28, a French banker who confronted El-Khazzani.The academic acted instinctively to protect his wife Isabella Risacher, who was also aboard the Thalys train.
He tackled the Kalashnikov assault rifle off El-Khazzani, who then drew a sidearm and shot him in the neck before taking back the rifle, his sister has revealed.Three other US citizens including two military personnel, and Chris Norman, a British businessman then stepped in to disarm and overpower the assailant.
Mr Moogalian’s sister Julia said: “He made sure his wife was hidden behind a seat. She watched the whole thing happen.“He did manage to get the weapon away from the gunman.“But the gunman then pulled another gun and shot my brother.
"There's a video of him saying 'help me' - he thought he was losing so much blood he would die."He's in extremely good shape - he cycles miles and runs - so we think that stood him well for this."The French President has reached out to ask him to come to dinner when he is fit enough."The academic, a keen musician and cyclist, was shot in the back of the neck and the bullet passed through his body causing nerve damage, his sister said.
“He’s in hospital still and it looks like he may have lost some of the functionality of his left arm.“He’s okay. He still has metal from the bullet in his body."We are extremely proud of him."We are excited that he has been so brave but he is an ocean away from us so it's difficult to be apart at a time like this."Miss Risacher said: "He is in hospital and he is alright."But it was quite a difficult situation.
"Because he took the bullet in the back of the neck and it came out from the front it is quite a bad wound."She later told BFM TV: "My husband told me he saw a man who he thought appeared strange because he went into the toilet with his bag and stayed there for a very long time."Then the man came out and he saw that the man was carrying a weapon and another person was tackling him from behind."He told me, ‘Go, this is serious.’"I just moved a few seats away and my husband rushed at the man to take his weapon, a Kalashnikov."Then he collapsed and I saw him through the gaps between the seats. He looked at me and said, ‘I’m hit, I’m hit.‘"He thought he was going to die."There was blood everywhere.
"She went on: "I rushed to him and I saw he was hit in the back."I made a sort of tourniquet with a scarf and then I saw that he had another wound on the neck."I ran into carriage number 11 to ask for help."I asked if there was a doctor and I said, ‘He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead’. No one came so I went back to carriage number 12 while the American soldiers were pinning the attacker down."Spencer Stone [a US airman who has also been awarded the Legion d'Honneur] knew how to give first aid."He put his finger on the wound in the middle of his neck and he stayed in that position for the whole journey until we got to Arras so I think he really saved my husband’s life."I didn’t have time to think and I thought at first that we were all going to die. That’s what I was thinking, that we were all going to be shot.”Mr Moogalian, who holds dual French and American nationality, is understood to teach English at the Paris-Sorbonne University.