France’s government has upped the police presence around Paris and other big cities after protests erupted over the death of a 17-year-old delivery driver who was shot and killed during a police check.
The death triggered unrest in multiple towns. The interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, said 31 people were arrested, 25 police officers injured and 40 cars burned overnight.
The tensions focused around the Paris suburb of Nanterre, where lawyers say 17-year-old Nael M. was killed on Tuesday during a traffic check. The police officer suspected of firing on him was detained and is being investigated and could face potential manslaughter charges, according to the Nanterre prosecutor’s office.
Videos purported to be of the incident were “extremely shocking,” Mr Darmanin said, pledging a full investigation. The images show two police officers leaning into the driver-side window of a yellow car, before the vehicle pulls away as one officer fires into the window. The car is later seen crashed into a post nearby.
Sporadic clashes broke out between youths and police on Tuesday evening as anger grew in the local community. Some groups set alight barricades and garbage bins, smashed up a bus stop and threw firecrackers toward police, who responded with tear gas and dispersion grenades. Nine people were arrested.
“I call for calm and truth,” Mr Darmanin said. He added 1,200 police were deployed overnight and 2,000 would be out in force on Wednesday in the Paris region and around other big cities to “maintain order.”
After a record 13 deaths from police shootings in France during traffic stops last year, this was the second fatal incident in such circumstances in 2023. It has prompted demands for more accountability. France also saw protests against racial profiling and other injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police in Minnesota.
Three people were killed by police gunfire after refusing to comply with a traffic stop in 2021 and two in 2020.
A lawyer for Nael M’s family, Yassine Bouzrou, told The Associated Press they want the police officer pursued for murder instead of manslaughter, and want the investigation handed to a different region because they fear Nanterre investigators won’t be impartial.
The government will hold a security meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss next steps, Mr Darmanin said.
The victim was wounded by a gunshot and died at the scene, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. A passenger in the car was briefly detained and released, and police are searching for another passenger who fled.
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