Spencer Stone ( pronunciation born 1992) is an American author, television personality and former United States Air Force staff sergeant. Stone, along with fellow Americans Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, a Briton and two Frenchmen, stopped a gunman on a Paris-bound train travelling from Amsterdam via Brussels in August 2015. Gaining international fame, Stone was recognized by U.S. Ambassador to France Jane D. Hartley for "his actions in saving countless lives" and by U.S. President Barack Obama, with a ceremony held at The Pentagon to honor Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler. He was awarded the Airman's Medal and a Purple Heart. French President Francois Hollande awarded Stone, as well his friends, the Legion of Honour, the highest French order for military and civil merits. On October 8, 2015, Stone was stabbed by a California man, James Tran, 28, during a fight in downtown Sacramento. He suffered life-threatening injuries and was rushed to UC Davis Medical Center. Stone recovered, and was released from the hospital on October 15. He was promoted to senior airman in late October and then staff sergeant in November 2015.
Spencer Stone was born in 1992 in Sacramento, California, United States to Brian Stone and Joyce Eskel. He has an older brother named Everett, a California Highway Patrolman in Redwood City, California, and younger sister named Kelly. Growing up in Carmichael, California, Stone met his now-best friends Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler while attending Freedom Christian School in Fair Oaks, California, continuing their friendship into adulthood. All three men are described as sharing "a deeply religious background and a belief in service to their community" His mom stated that he wanted to become a soldier, watching countless Navy Seal videos with him. Stone later attended Del Campo High School where he played football, lacrosse, and other contact sports. Del Campo High School teacher and basketball coach Dave Nobis, remembers Stone as he played basketball in junior year through to senior year when he was also in Nobis' psychology class. Nobis said that Stone was always looking out for family and friends, ""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." and that "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,"
After high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force. Stone worked at the Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California, as an intake clerk for children who needed to be treated, and trained at United States Forces Azores. Joao Santos, a trainer of Stone, said that he is "a really nice guy, polite, well-educated and very keen on learning." In October 2015, Stone was promoted to the rank of senior airman at Travis Air Force Base in California, partly in due to the bold acts in France. Following this promotion, Stone was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant, effective November 1, 2016, by the order of United States Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. Stone commented, saying "It is an honor to be promoted to staff sergeant, and I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to lead my fellow Airmen,” and that “I am ready for the growth and challenges that are ahead of me." Stone was promoted in part due to his role in stopping the 2015 Thalys train attack.
In January 2015, Stone started education at the Airman Leadership School to learn how to be a non-commissioned officer and lead others. Stone announced in December 2015 that he will be leaving the United States Air Force in November 2016 after meeting with U.S. Ambassador to France Jane D. Hartley further piqued his interest in international relations. He plans on pursuing a degree in international relations at the University of California, Los Angeles or the University of Southern California.
2015 Thalys train attack
On August 21, 2015, Stone and his childhood friends Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, were traveling together during a sightseeing vacation in Europe when they boarded Thalys train 9364 from Amsterdam bound to Paris via Brussel. Stone was serving at the United States Air Force 65th Air Base Group. A 25-year-old Moroccan man, believed to be Ayoub El-Khazzani, was in train car No. 12, armed with an AKM assault rifle and equipped with 270 rounds of ammunition. Several people tried to stop the gunman, but failed to do so. Sadler reported that they heard a gunshot and breaking glass behind them, seeing an employee sprint down the aisle followed by a man with an automatic rifle. Stone woke up from the breaking glass, with Skarlatos telling Stone to "go". Stone tackled the armed suspect, and was stabbed in the neck and eyebrow and almost lost his thumb. Skarlatos took action and seized the assailant's rifle, beating him in the head with the muzzle of it until he was unconscious. Skarlatos stated that "I was thinking about survival," and "[i]t was to survive and for everybody else on the train to make it." Stone was transferred to the central hospital in Lille, France and went under treatment in Germany, returning home September 3, 2015.
After the event, Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler received international attention for their actions in preventing the attack. French president François Hollande awarded Stone, his friends Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, as well as British businessman Chris Norman, France's highest decoration, Knights of the Legion of Honour (Chevaliers de la Légion d'honneur). Hollande said the men "faced [off] with terror" and that they "gave us a lesson in courage, in will, and therefore in hope". French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve praised them for their bravery, as well as then-British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The White House expressed gratitude for "courage and quick thinking of several passengers, including U.S. service members, who selflessly subdued the attacker..." U.S. President Barack Obama telephoned the three Americans, thanking them for their heroic actions. General Philip M. Breedlove of the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, added his voice, calling the three Americans heroes for their actions which "clearly illustrate the courage and commitment our young men and women have all the time, whether they are on duty or on leave."
Kevin Johnson, mayor of Sacramento, California, held a parade to honor Skarlatos, Sadler, Stone, and the victims of the September 11 attacks. Stone was awarded a United States Air Force Airman's Medal and a Purple Heart at a ceremony held at The Pentagon.
On October 8, 2015, Stone was stabbed by a California man, James Tran, 28, during a fight in downtown Sacramento. He suffered life-threatening injuries and was rushed to UC Davis Medical Center. Stone recovered, and was released from the hospital on October 15, a week after he was stabbed. The fight broke out after a member of Tran's group used a cell phone to take video of women in Stone's group. There was a verbal argument which subsided and both groups began going on their separate ways. Tran, however, then engaged Stone again, and, "it escalated from there into a physical fight," Sacramento Police Chief Sam Somers Jr. stated. Tran then circled behind Stone and stabbed him multiple times in the back with a knife that had been concealed on Tran's person. After the stabbing, Tran and his group fled the scene in a vehicle. Stone's companions and bystanders summoned emergency services. First responders recognized the seriousness of Stone's injuries, and rushed him to University of California Davis Medical Center (UCDMC). On arrival, medical staff determined that Stone had sustained multiple life-threatening injuries, and underwent emergency open heart surgery to repair wounds to his lungs, liver, and heart.
Stone recovered, and was released from UCDMC on October 15, a week after he was stabbed. Sacramento Police detectives were assigned to the case shortly after the initial stabbing. Along with video obtained of the assault; eyewitness statements; and tips from the public, detectives determined the identity of the assailant, and an arrest warrant was issued for Tran. On November 4th, 2015, Tran was arrested without incident, after detectives, uniformed officers, and deputies from the Sacramento Police Department, Elk Grove Police Department, and Sacramento County Sheriff's Department conducted a traffic stop near his home in Elk Grove, California. Law enforcement officials involved in the case said that it did not appear Tran or anyone in his group knew of Stone's publicity. Officials also stated that the crime did not appear to be a retaliatory strike by a terrorist organization (either directly or indirectly) against Stone for his part in foiling a terror attack. Law enforcement officials stated that Tran has previous felony convictions, and that Tran was most likely intoxicated at the time of the assault.
Tran made his first appearance in Sacramento County Superior Court on November 6, 2015, charged of the attempted murder of Stone with an allegation of using a dangerous weapon, a knife. He did not enter a plea, was ordered to be held without bail, and was scheduled to return to court December 1, 2015. On December 1, 2015, Tran again appeared in the Sacramento Superior Court for a bail review hearing. This was subsequently postponed, with Tran held without bail. On January 7th, 2016, Tran was again denied bail, and another preliminary hearing was set for February 26th, 2016. At the February 26th hearing, Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Anthony Ortiz informed Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Goodman that his department plans to amend the original criminal charges against Tran, to include gang involvement in the assault. A gang involvement charge in California provides for additional penalties if the defendant is found guilty. Judge Goodman ordered another hearing to be held on March 30, 2016, to determine whether or not prosecutors have enough evidence to proceed with the charges against Tran.
In January 2016, Stone accepted First Lady Michelle Obama's invitation to attend Barack Obama's 2016 State of the Union Address. Stone "had a heartbreaking moment" when a daughter of one of the victims of the 2015 San Bernardino attack in San Bernardino, California, thanked him for his role in stopping the Thalys train attack; Stone giving her a hug in response. Stone, in response to the State of the Union Address, said "What I will walk away with ... is how the president said we are still a strong country ... he made it clear that we aren't dealing with a giant war, but with low grade thugs," and finished by commenting "In the grand scheme, they can't bring us down." When asked which presidential candidate he supported in the 2016 United States presidential election, Stone declined to comment, wanting to maintain the public non-partisan stand of the military.
In March 2016, Brian J. Stone, Spencer's father, as well as two other men, were indicted on charges of collecting $1.5 million USD in insurance money in an arson and insurance fraud scheme, which resulted in setting fires at Sacramento-area commercial buildings. Stone's father allegedly provided business services, including assisting with insurance claims after seven fires in Sacramento and Carmichael, California, between 2009 and 2013. He was charged with 13 counts of mail or wire fraud.
Honored at the Spike's annual 2016 Guys' Choice Awards, Stone and his friends Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler accepted the hero award on June 4, 2016 from actor Clint Eastwood, sharing a conversation with him backstage. "People try and ask us what's the coolest things we've done, but I can name 100. It's hard to categorize them," Stone said.
Stone currently lives in Sacramento as of 2016 and is a Christian. It was announced in January 2016 that Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler were working on a memoir titled The 15:17 to Paris, which will highlight the events of the 2015 Thalys train attack. Perseus Books Group, who will be publishing the book, described the upcoming memoir as “the gripping true story of a terrorist attack that would have killed more than 500 people if not for their actions, but it is also the story of three American boys, their friendship, and the values we hold dear.” Jeffrey E. Stern, an international journalist, will co-write the book. David Steinberger, president and chief executive of Perseus Books Group, said that he is “confident that this is going to be a film. It’s extremely cinematic, and there’s a lot of interest in the movie.” He further said that "based on the material, that this was going to be an important book and one that readers were really going to respond to.” The memoir was made available to the public on August 23, 2016, almost a year after the 2015 Thalys train attack. In the acknowledgements, Stone stated that he "give[s] all the credit to God" and made further acknowledgement of his family, friends, the United States Air Force, the citizens of Sacramento and the United States Armed Forces.
Stone, Skarlatos, and Sadler appeared on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in October 2016 as a part of a special "Hometown Heroes" week, Playing as a team, they won $250,000.
- The 15:17 To Paris (2016) (ISBN 978-1610397339)
Awards and decorations
|2016||Spike Guys Choice Awards||N/A||Hero||Won|
|Airman's Medal||Purple Heart||Outstanding Unit Award|
|National Defense Service Medal||Global War on Terrorism Service Medal||Air Force Training Ribbon||Légion d'honneur (Chevalier) |