LONDON — From Queen Elizabeth II to politicians and social media users across the country, Britons were on Saturday praising bystanders who intervened using what appeared to be a fire extinguisher and a narwhal tusk to stop the knife-wielding suspect in a deadly attack on London Bridge.
Police identified the suspect late Friday as Usman Khan, a 28-year-old who was released from prison last year after serving time for terrorism offenses.
He was shot dead by police, but only after the intervention of members of the public helped cut short Khan’s stabbing spree.
Video posted to social media from eyewitnesses appeared to show at least three men chasing after the suspect and pinning him to the ground.
One appeared to charge at him with the antique tusk of a narwhal — a type of whale — while another sprayed him with a fire extinguisher before knocking him down.
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Local tour guide Thomas Gray, 24, told NBC News he parked his car on the bridge when he noticed the commotion and ran over to help.
“They were the bravest men I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to see them on a dark night.”
Gray said the attacker had a knife in each hand. “I asked what was going on and they said the guy just stabbed two women back there,” Gray said.
He added that the blades appeared to be about eight inches long and the suspect was wearing gloves.
With the suspect being held on the ground, Gray said he stomped on his wrist, forcing him to drop one of the knives.
Police arrived within moments and video footage appeared to show officers dragging clear one of the bystanders who was still grappling with Khan. Gray and the others then ran to safety while shots were fired.
Queen Elizabeth II issued a statement sharing condolences to the families of the victims and praising those who intervened.
“I express my enduring thanks to the police and emergency services, as well as the brave individuals who put their own lives at risk to selflessly help and protect others,” the queen said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement he wanted “to pay tribute to the extraordinary bravery of those members of the public who physically intervened to protect the lives of others.”
“They represent the very best of our country and I thank them on behalf of all our country,” he added.
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a post on Twitter that the country owes “a deep debt of gratitude to our police and emergency services, and the brave members of the public who put themselves in harm’s way to protect others.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan also acknowledged the bravery of both the public and police for facing the suspect despite what later turned out to be a fake explosive vest.
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Khan told the BBC: “They saw a man with a belt around him, which for wanton purposes could have been an explosive belt, a suicide vest, and they ran towards him to stop him from hurting other people and I’m so proud and we should all be really proud of these people.”
But the bystanders involved appeared not to have let their dramatic Friday afternoon efforts divert them too much.
“I am just a Londoner doing his bit,” said Gray. “I’m going to have a pint to shake it off.”