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Paris officer charged with involuntary manslaughter of fleeing driver and passenger

Officer used assault rifle to fire at car hurtling toward colleagues, but prosecutors contend he used excessive force; police union slams decision as ‘unacceptable’

Police officers are seen in front of the Eiffel Tower during a large police operation around the Eiffel Tower area in Paris, on April 26, 2022. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)
Police officers are seen in front of the Eiffel Tower during a large police operation around the Eiffel Tower area in Paris, on April 26, 2022. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

PARIS (AFP) — A French policeman has been charged with involuntary manslaughter after shooting dead a driver who sought to evade police and a passenger in Paris Sunday, hours after Emmanuel Macron celebrated reelection nearby, a judicial source said.

The 24-year-old officer used his assault rifle to try to stop the car as it hurtled toward his colleagues on the picturesque Pont Neuf bridge, later claiming that he acted in self-defense. But he was immediately taken in for questioning by the police’s internal investigations agency, and prosecutors determined it was more likely that the officer had responded with excessive force. Around a dozen rounds were fired, with “five or six shots hitting the occupants,” according to a police report of the incident seen by AFP.

The officer was presented before a judge who decided late Wednesday to charge him with involuntary manslaughter for the death of the driver, the legal source said. Lesser charges of “willful violence by a person in authority” were issued over the death of the front-seat passenger, and the injury of a person in the back seat. He was ordered to turn in his gun and prohibited from any police duties involving contact with the public.

The decision was slammed as “unacceptable” by the right-leaning Alliance police officers’ union, which called for a demonstration to defend “the presumption of legitimate defense” in front of the historic Paris courthouse on Monday.

The police report said the car was parked the wrong way with its hazard lights flashing on the banks of the Seine, prompting the five-person foot patrol to investigate, according to the police report.

When confronted, the driver suddenly sped off toward one officer who managed to jump out of the way. The two occupants who were killed had extensive criminal records, including for drug charges.

Police officers arrest an illegal street vendor during a large police operation around the Eiffel Tower area in Paris, on April 26, 2022. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

While police in France went unarmed while on routine patrols for years, authorities began issuing assault rifles after the mass jihadist terror killing in Paris on November 13, 2015, which was followed by a wave of other deadly Islamist attacks.

Security forces have been on high alert since the marathon trial for the November 2015 attacks, France’s worst post-war atrocity, opened in September.

The 20 defendants include Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving attacker, who after years of silence claimed in testimony this month that he had a last-minute change of heart and decided not to set off his explosive vest.

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