In the Paris suburb of Nanterre, serious riots broke out after a fatal police shot at a 17-year-old driver during a traffic check. Garbage cans, cars and an elementary school were set on fire by angry people, and emergency services were shot at with exploding fireworks. Barricades were erected between the high-rise settlements and firefighters were hindered in their operations, as reported by French media.
The riots, which began on Tuesday evening with a demonstration in front of the Nanterre police station, spread to neighboring towns during the night. In Mantes-la-Jolie, a town hall was set on fire and burst into flames. The police used tear gas and rubber bullets, but had to retreat in the face of the massive attacks, sometimes at a run. According to authorities, 20 people were arrested.
A police motorcycle patrol stopped the three-person car on Tuesday morning. A video verified by broadcaster France Info shows one of the officers pointing his gun at the level of the driver's door in the stationary car. The situation appears to be under control and there are no signs of hectic movement. When the 17-year-old suddenly drives off at the wheel, the officer fires at the youngster at close range, fatally hitting him in the chest.
The car then drove a few meters further and finally rammed a roadblock. A passenger – also a minor – was arrested and later released, while a third fled, according to the public prosecutor.
As reported by France Info, the officer was taken into police custody on suspicion of manslaughter. According to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, the police supervision began investigations to clarify the incident. For the time being, the presumption of innocence applies to the official and his colleagues, the minister emphasized.
According to France Info, the patrol officers initially said that the youngster wanted to run them over. They later backed off from this version and explained that he had not followed their instructions and then suddenly accelerated – there was no longer any talk of an intention to kill.
The teenager is said to have been known to the police for previous traffic offenses and resisting law enforcement officers. Interior Minister Darmanin described his death as a "drama", but at the same time pointed out that resistance to state authority had resulted in the deaths of police officers in many cases. The boy's family, through their lawyer, announced they would sue the gunman for murder and also for false testimony because his account of events was clearly contradicted by the video footage.
The deadly incident triggered outrage in France, and in view of the video recordings, excessive police violence was once again denounced. Time and time again, people in France die in banal vehicle checks if they don't follow police instructions. Often it is not about serious criminals, but, as in the case of Nanterre, about people who have attracted attention with petty crimes. The 17-year-old was originally stopped for violating traffic rules, France Info reported.
This is one of the reasons why the most recent death in a police operation triggered a heated political debate. "The death penalty no longer exists in France. No police officer has the right to kill unless it is in self-defence," tweeted left-wing politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The police bring the authority of the state into disrepute and must be reformed from the ground up. Other left-wing politicians also expressed their outrage, stressing that resistance to law enforcement officers does not justify killing a person.