Richmond Armenian Shot Trying To Subdue France Train Gunman
By Bill McKelway
RICHMOND, VA – Family members of a man hailed as a hero for being the first passenger to grab an assault rifle from a gunman aboard the high-speed train headed from Amsterdam to Paris say they are proud of Mark Moogalian and anxious to learn more about his condition after being shot while wresting the weapon Friday from Ayoub El- Khazzani.
The Telegraph of London reported that Moogalian, 51, who teaches English at the Sorbonne, tackled El-Khazzani during Friday’s train attack and grabbed his weapon before being shot through the neck. The attacker was then subdued by three vacationing Americans who have been cited for their heroism in the episode, as well as a Briton.
Moogalian, a graduate of Midlothian High School, is a member of a family of Armenian descent with deep roots in Virginia. Relatives operated a grocery for many years in the Hopewell area.
“We couldn’t be more proud,” said an uncle, Harry Moogalian. He said in an interview Monday morning that the family is still trying to sort out the sequence of events that left the author and musician shot and hospitalized. Moogalian said the family here is still awaiting word about his nephew’s condition.
Moogalian’s encounter with the gunman appears to be the first confrontation in the episode that was quelled by the three Americans and Briton who Monday were given France’s highest award, the Legion d’Honneur, by President Francois Hollande.
Hollande acknowledged that Moogalian also intervened. Moogalian’s wife told Europe-1 radio Monday that he, too, “is among the heroes in this story,” the AP reported.
Isabella Risacher-Moogalian described hiding behind train seats from the attacker and then seeing her husband wounded. “He looked at me and said ‘I’m hit, I’m hit.’ He thought it was over and he was going to die,” the AP quoted her as saying.
According to The Telegraph, Moogalian was hospitalized but doing well despite the ordeal.
The Telegraphy quoted Moogalian’s sister, Julia, as saying the gunman was able to pull another weapon and shoot her brother, who suffered nerve damage as the bullet passed through his body.
According to The Telegraph, Moogalian made sure his wife was behind a seat before confronting the gunman and taking his weapon.
Moogalian’s sister said “there’s a video of him saying, ‘help me’ – he thought he was losing so much blood he would die.” The newspaper reported on its website that Moogalian was doing well in the hospital despite the ordeal.
“We’re extremely proud of him,” the sister said.
Moogalian’s uncle described his nephew as a a free spirit who recently authored a vaguely autobiographical novel called Mr. Farride about a man living on a houseboat on the Seine River in Paris, is married and teaches English at the Sorbonne.
“He has taken a much different path than much of the family and what he has accomplished has been very much on his own,” Harry Moogalian said.
Moogalian’s father, now retired, was a senior scientist with Liggett & Myers Tobacco Co.