LONDON — A barrage of bottles, chairs, tables and slammed doors is credited with preventing more bloodshed in Saturday’s terrorist knife attack as Londoners fought back in the moments before police killed three suspects.
Gerard Vowls, standing on the street as the attack first unfolded, said he heard someone moan, “I’ve been stabbed.” He thought it was a joke until he saw the blood. Then he saw three attackers fall upon a nearby woman with their knives.
“They were just stabbing this woman constantly, nonstop, the three of them. Just stabbing her from every direction, the three of them around her. Lunging at her,” Vowls said. “I heard them say one thing: ‘This is for Allah.’ ”
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) June 3, 2017
Vowls shouted as he ran through the streets, according to bystanders who say he saved lives Saturday night. Doors slammed shut. The attackers retreated from at least one establishment when they were met with a barrage of glass bottles.
In another, a waiter jammed his foot in the door to prevent anyone from pushing in. Diner Richard Angell saw someone throw a table and realized it was a “heroic guy who saw what was happening” — apparently Vowls — and was trying to keep the attackers at bay. Vowls said he picked up whatever was handy — chairs, a stool and bottles of beer.
“I went ‘Oi, terrorists, cowards, Oi!’ ” Vowls said. He was hoping to lure them toward a main road and into the line of fire of police. Still, the squad cars headed the wrong way. Vowls ran back and found a local beat officer, saying he knew where the attackers were.
Moments later, the three assailants died in a hail of bullets.
Vowls saw their bodies, wrapped in fake explosive vests. But that’s not the image that haunts Vowls. He said he woke from a nightmare before dawn yesterday.
“I saw a vision of the poor woman being stabbed, and the three guys — the three terrorists — stabbing her, and she was going, ‘Help me, help me!’ and then I woke up and I started screaming,” he said. “I’ll have her in my mind for the rest of my life.”
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