'Captain America' Spencer Stone Lived up to His Nickname During Paris Train Attack: 'This Is What Courage Looks Like'
"He's a great kid, about 6'4 and 220 lbs and he's always been bigger than the average kid at school," proud dad Brian Stone tells PEOPLE
On Wednesday night, Spencer Stone, one of the men who foiled a terror attack on a Paris-bound train in August, was seriously injured after being stabbed several times, PEOPLE confirms. The 23-year-old, who is in stable condition, is being treated for injury at a local hospital. The incident is currently under investigation by local law enforcement.
Stone spoke to PEOPLE in August about his heroic feat aboard the high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. Read on for the exclusive story.
Airman First Class Spencer Stone’s nickname during basic training was Captain America. And he lived up to that title when he stormed an armed terrorism suspect on a Paris-bound train last week.
The trio met while attending the small (about 120 students) private K-12 Freedom Christian School in Fair Oaks, California, and continued their friendship into adulthood. Each man shares a deeply religious background and a belief in service to their community.
Del Campo High teacher and basketball coach Dave Nobis, 43, remembers Stone from when he played basketball his junior year and senior year psychology class.
“He’s a blue-collar straight shooter,” Nobis tells PEOPLE. “He didn’t play (his senior year) because he had to work. He’s a non-nonsense team player, not a starter but a hard worker.”
He was always looking out for family and friends, Nobis says.
“He was always trying to pick up his teammates, giving them a high five. After he graduated, he sent me a link to a motivational speech to use in my psychology class,” Nobis says. “His blue-collar attitude and how he cared about others, he would have been the one to step up rather than curl into a ball.”
Stone grew up next door to Skarlatos, in a corner house in the quiet Sacramento suburban community of Carmichael with his older brother Everett Stone, now a California Highway Patrolman based in Redwood City, and his younger sister Kelly, who works as a nanny for the lead guitarist of Linkin Park.
“He’s a great kid, about 6’4 and 220 lbs and he’s always been bigger than the average kid at school,” proud dad Brian Stone told PEOPLE. “He’s following in the service footsteps of his older brother Everett. I can hear his brother saying now, ‘I can’t believe you took that guy down. Good job!’ ”
It was Stone’s pal Skarlatos who sounded the charge that sent Stone careening down the aisle in first position, followed closely by Skarlatos and Sadler.
“We’re going to have to talk about that,” Stone’s dad says laughing. “But having someone as big as Spencer coming at him probably threw the guy off.”
Stone was injured in the attack when the terrorism suspect allegedly slashed his finger with a box-cutter, nearly severing it.
As intimidating as his size can be, Spencer also has a very caring, gentle side, his friends and family say. Before his transfer to the Air Force base in the Azores, Stone worked at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California, as an intake clerk for children who needed to be treated.
“He’s an (Emergency Medical Technician) and went into the Air Force to pay for his education,” Stone’s dad says. “I’m hoping he’ll become a doctor.”
After taking down the gunman, Stone quickly switched gears and went into EMT mode to aid Mark Moogalian, who was shot after being the first to confront the attacker.
“We were very lucky because Spencer Stone knew first aid. He put his finger into the wound in the neck to stop the bleeding,” Isabelle Risacher-Moogalian told Europe 1 radio. “And he stayed in that position the entire trip until we got to Arras, so I really think he saved my husband’s life.”
Simao Reis, a civilian jiu-jitsu instructor at the U.S. Air Force’s Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal, was one of Stone’s trainers.
Reis recalls having Stone pinned in a demonstration of how he, as a smaller man, could take a larger man like Stone.
“He threw me away with one arm,” Reis tells PEOPLE. “He’s so powerful (but) has a huge amount of heart. If someone gets hurt in training, Spencer goes from being the one training to being the one who helps. Even wounded (on the train), he is taking care of another human being.”
Another instructor, Joao Santos, tells PEOPLE that Stone is “a really nice guy, polite, well-educated and very keen on learning. He wanted to know the small details, always asking for as much as he could learn.”
Santos says when put to the test, Stone showed all of his amazing skills.
“He did not hesitate. This is fortitude. This is what courage looks like. It looks like Spencer Stone,” he says.
• Reporting by SUSAN KEATING and ROSE MINUTAGLIO
For more on their remarkable heroics and inspiring bond, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.