Spencer Stone, one of three Americans who stopped a suspected terror attack on a train in France in August, was stabbed early Thursday during an altercation in Sacramento and is in serious but stable condition, officials said.
Stone, a 23-year-old U.S. airman from Carmichael, Calif., was the first American to tackle a gunman aboard the Paris-bound train over the summer. He and his two friends were quickly hailed as heroes and celebrated by President Obama and French President Francois Hollande.
Thursday’s stabbing, which took place around 12:45 a.m. near 21st and K streets, was part of a “very unfortunate altercation between two groups of folks who were enjoying the nightlife” in Sacramento’s midtown area, Deputy Police Chief Ken Bernard told reporters.
Police said Stone was stabbed multiple times in the torso. He underwent surgery and is recovering in the hospital's intensive care unit, UC Davis Chief Medical Officer J. Douglas Kirk told reporters Thursday afternoon. He is expected to make a full recovery.
Bernard said that the stabbing was “not related to terrorism in any way” and that there’s no indication whoever stabbed Stone knew who he was.
The airman was out with four friends, one male and three female, and had a run-in with two or three men, Bernard said.
“There was a dispute that led to the altercation,” he said, although he did not say what the dispute was about. “There were conversations, and then it continued down the block where the stabbing took place.”
A Sacramento television station interviewed the driver of a taxi seen pulling into the intersection where the fight was taking place, just as Stone began to stumble, a large dark stain spreading on his chest. The driver, identified as Kennedy Hailemariam, told CBS-13 that he saw a woman with Stone who also was involved in the altercation.
"She tried to protect him too, but she got hit too," Hailemariam was quoted by the station. "Like you know, big punch, like boom."
The station also quoted a night clerk at the liquor store across the street from the fight, saying he believed the altercation began over a woman he saw fighting with another man. The employee, Eric Cain, was quoted as saying Stone then intervened with the man "and kinda got in his face."
Police have not named any suspects, but they are seeking two men believed to have fled in a 2009-2012 dark Toyota Camry. They released a blurry image of the two men, and later posted security camera footage of the suspects. In the video, three people run up to a car that stops on the street for them to jump in.
Anyone with information is asked to call police at (916) 264-5471.
An employee of the nearby Badlands Sacramento nightclub said in an email that Stone left the club about 45 minutes before the attack.
Stone is being treated at UC Davis Medical Center. Messages of support for him can be sent to email@example.com, Kirk said.
A clerk at the A&P liquor store at the intersection where the stabbing occurred said he saw video of it from the store’s street surveillance camera.
“Pretty much all you see on the tape is the altercation. They are in the middle of the street fighting, like in the middle of the intersection,” Bryan Romandia said.
“There’s like kind of going back and forth,” he said, “and then you see a guy lunge and he kind of gets stabbed.
“You see discolorment,” he said, indicating an area on his own chest, “and then they all kind of disperse.”
Security footage is not as plentiful as cameras on the street would suggest. For instance, the two video cameras mounted on a print shop that would have had a clear view of the beginning of the altercation "are fake," an employee said.
Still, police detectives were inside the shop midday Thursday, talking to the owner.
The part of Sacramento where Stone was stabbed is home to a number of nightclubs.
Scott Kearns, 56, who runs a smoke shop on the same block during the day and manages a club on weekends, said the area is congested late at night and there are frequent altercations involving young people who have consumed too much alcohol.
“We don’t get a lot of stabbings, but we get a lot of assaults, you know, drunk, stupid people,” Kearns said. “It’s been getting worse.”
Terry Sidie, longtime owner of the Faces nightclub at 20th and K streets, said the neighborhood was pretty rough three decades ago. But after he opened Faces, he said, other bars followed and the neighborhood began to flourish.
“Alcohol makes some people stupid,” Sidie said, “but we have enough security to cover that.” He said that each of the bars typically has several security guards on staff and that he was surprised the stabbing happened when it did — Wednesdays are typically a slow night.
“On the weekends, 3,000 people probably dump out onto that corner,” Sidie said. “But I have never been touched, and I’ve been there now for over 30 years.”
He said he’s considering approaching other business owners to propose pooling resources and hiring a marked security car to patrol at night to help everyone feel safer.
The stabbing comes less than two months after Stone, along with his childhood friends Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, thwarted an attack aboard a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris.
In that incident, Stone was awakened by the sound of a gunshot in their railway carriage. He looked up and saw an assailant at the end of the car holding an AK-47. The friends ran down the length of the carriage and tackled the gunman. Stone locked him in a chokehold while Skarlatos snatched his gun away.
With the help of a British businessman, the Americans hogtied the attacker with a necktie. But Stone, trained as a paramedic, noticed a nearby passenger who apparently had been hit by a bullet and was bleeding profusely from the neck.
Ignoring his own injuries, including a nearly severed thumb, Stone found the wound and stanched the flow.
A family friend, Janet Kampouris, who spoke on behalf of Stone’s mother after the train attack, said she was awakened Thursday by a reporter who called to ask her about the stabbing news.
“I’m still stunned,” Kampouris said. “I’m waiting, like everyone else, to hear more. I’m in total shock.”
Stone’s father, Brian Stone, said he was not available to comment.
Last week, another of the three Americans who thwarted the French train attack was in the news. After a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon that left nine people dead, Skarlatos revealed that he had been enrolled at the college this semester.
Skarlatos said on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” that had he not agreed to compete on “Dancing With the Stars” this season, he would have been on campus the day of the shooting — “I had classes picked out and everything.”
Mai-Duc reported from Los Angeles and Megerian and St. John from Sacramento. Times staff writers Joseph Serna in Los Angeles and W.J. Hennigan in Washington contributed to this report.