Alek Skarlatos, the Army National Guard Specialist who helped to prevent a possible terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train in August, used to be a student at Umpqua Community College, and says he wishes he had been able to help after a gunman killed at least 10 and injured 20 there on Thursday.
“I was enrolled as a student at Umpqua Community College prior to my 2014 deployment to Afghanistan,” Skarlatos, 22, says in a statement to PEOPLE. “While I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time in August aboard a train bound for Paris, I only wish that the same could be said for today. I wish that I could have been there today to assist.”
“I praise the first responders who were on the ground today in Roseburg as they undoubtedly were integral in saving numerous lives and putting a stop to what could have been more than tragic than it is. My heart and prayers go out to this community, my community, right now,” he says.
Skarlatos’ father, Emanuel Skarlatos, told PEOPLE in August that Alek is dedicated to helping others, and wanted to become a police officer, which is why he attended classes at UCC.
“He thinks the world should be just. He’s for the underdog and the weak,” Emmanuel said.
RELATED VIDEO: American Heroes Who Stopped Train Attack Given France’s Highest Honor
Skarlatos’ aspiration to protect others was realized when he and Anthony Sadler, Chris Norman and Spencer Stone detained Ayoub El Khazzani, who was allegedly preparing to attack the train, which had 554 passengers. They received France’s highest honor for their heroic act.