As convicted terrorist Usman Khan began stabbing people in London on Friday, bystanders took swift action to stop the violence that left two dead and three injured before police intervened with guns.
The civilians who intervened used what they could grab: One man snatched a fire extinguisher. Another seized a five-foot-long narwhal tusk.
They pursued Khan onto the north side of London Bridge, where they were recorded on video working together to neutralize him before police arrived. A third man appeared to have no weapon at all when he knocked Khan to the ground with his fists. Armed officers shot the attacker upon realizing that he appeared to be wearing an explosive vest, which turned out to be a convincing fake.
The whole struggle atop London Bridge lasted just moments.
For their bravery, the bystanders were quickly and deservedly hailed as heroes by the British public.
But what was with that narwhal tusk?
It turns out the man wielding it had spotted the thing at Fishmonger’s Hall, located on the north bank of London Bridge, where the incident began.
Khan was ostensibly at the venue to participate in a conference on prisoner rehabilitation put on by Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology that included other former inmates along with prison staffers. He had been released from prison last year after serving time for plotting an al Qaeda-linked terrorist attack against Parliament, the U.S. Embassy and other locations. He was still wearing his electronic ankle tracking bracelet when he took out a huge knife.
Fishmonger’s Hall, as its name implies, is the historical home of a centuries-old fishmonger’s guild. Its interior is peppered with nautical curios ― such as narwhal tusks mounted on either side of a doorway. Male narwhals, a type of Arctic whale, use the spear-like protrusions to hunt fish and, sometimes, to duel with other male narwhals.
According to The Times of London, a Polish chef named Łukasz yanked one of the tusks off its perch and ran at Khan, getting stabbed in the hand in the process.
“Being stabbed didn’t stop him giving him a beating. Łukasz is a hero,” a co-worker of his told The Times.
The other bystanders who risked their own safety to stop the attack have yet to be identified.
One of the victims, Jack Meritt, was an organizer of the prisoner rehabilitation conference. The other was a woman who has yet to be publicly identified.
British authorities are currently looking at the conditions of Khan’s release. It’s not yet known whether he took part in any “de-radicalization” programs while in prison.