Paris - Thousands of additional security forces are facing a second night of violence in France after a 17-year-old driver was shot dead by police near Paris on Tuesday (27/6/2023), during a traffic check.
The teenager, named Nahel M, was shot at close range as he continued to drive and crashed shortly after.
In Toulouse, protesters lit fires and threw rocks at firefighters as they tried to put them out. Demonstrators also clashed with police in the city of Lille.
Local media reported that in Rennes, around 300 people gathered to pay their respects to the teenager - many of whom also started the fire and were dispersed by police to allow firefighters to put out the blaze.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Nahel's shooting was "unforgivable". However, his comments drew an angry reaction from the police union, which accused him of rushing to judge the officers involved.
The Police Alliance Union has called for them to be presumed innocent until a formal verdict is reached, while rival Police Unite SGP has also spoken out against political interference that encourages "anti-police hatred".
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said he would take legal action against the group, French Police, after publishing what he called "unacceptable and despicable" tweets seeking to justify the killing of the teenager.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is also reportedly considering declaring that police intervention is "manifestly unlawful".
Nahel's mother, Mounia, said they had taken her "baby". He urged people to join in the memory of his son.
"He is still a child. He needs his mother," he said as reported by the BBC, Thursday (29/6/2023). "He said goodbye in the morning and said, 'I love you mom'.
"An hour later, I was informed that someone had shot my son. What should I do? He is my life. He is everything to me."
The officer accused of killing Nahel, who said he had shot because he felt his life was in danger, is being held on charges of unlawful homicide.
Police Accused of Lying
Nahel, who neighbors say is from a French-Algerian family, is the second person this year in France to be shot dead by police during a traffic check. Last year, 13 people died in the same way.
Human rights groups have criticized the increase in police shootings since a 2017 change to the law, which expanded the framework for when officers can use firearms.
Citing official statistics, Le Monde newspaper reported that the annual number of shootings at moving vehicles has been consistently higher since the change.
Speaking on BFMTV, campaigner Rokhaya Diallo said more gunshots meant there was a higher risk of falling victim to police shooting, especially for people of color.
A Reuters tally found that the majority of victims of deadly police shootings during traffic checks since 2017 have been black or Arab.
According to French media, police initially said Nahel had driven his car towards them intending to harm them.
But footage circulating online and verified by the AFP news agency shows an officer pointing his gun at the driver through his window and appearing to shoot at point-blank range as Nahel tries to drive away.
AFP also reports that someone in the video can be heard saying, "You will be shot in the head" - but it is unclear who said this.
Two other people were in the same car as Nahel at the time of the shooting. One fled while the other, also a minor, was caught and detained by police.
"Nothing justifies the death of a young person," President Macron said, calling for calm so that justice can be served.
"I want to express the feelings of the entire nation for what has happened and Nahel's death and tell his family of our solidarity and compassion... A teenager has been killed... it is unforgivable," Macron said, adding that the case was immediately referred to to court, where he hopes justice will do its job swiftly.
Authorities have opened two separate investigations following Nahel's death. First, the possible murder by a public official and second about the driver's failure to stop his vehicle and the alleged attempt to kill the police officer.
Paris police chief Laurent Nunez told BFMTV the police's actions against Nahel "raise questions", but suggested officers may have felt threatened.
The 17-year-old's family lawyer, Yassine Bouzrou, insisted it was an illegitimate defense. He said the video "clearly shows a policeman killing a young man in cold blood".
Bouzrou added that the family had filed a complaint against the police for lying.
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