AFP — A Paris municipal worker recounted Friday how he had wrestled with gunman Amedy Coulibaly, possibly sparing a nearby Jewish school from attack, the day after the 2015 massacre at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine.
The worker, identified only as Laurent, told a Paris court he had arrived at a traffic incident in Montrouge, outside Paris, when he noticed a man — who it later turned out was Coulibaly — armed and dressed in a jacket identical to his own.
“He took out his weapon and fired immediately,” Laurent testified at the trial of 14 people accused of having helped the perpetrators of terror attacks over three terrifying days in Paris in January 2015.
Laurent, an employee of the municipal cleaning service, thought at first it was a toy gun, but then noticed that a policewoman had been shot through the throat and a colleague of his badly injured with a bullet to the face.
Laurent said he “became crazy” after seeing the injuries and instinctively grabbed the barrel of Coulibaly’s assault rifle.
He realized he had no choice but to tackle Coulibaly if he wanted to survive, he testified.
“My last thought was, ‘If I turn my back on him and leave, there will be sufficient distance between us for him to kill me.’ So my only hope was to tackle him.”
Coulibaly killed police officer Clarissa Jean-Philippe during a traffic check on January 8 — the day after brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi killed 12 at the offices of Charlie Hebdo.
He managed to flee, and the following day shot dead four people at a Jewish supermarket in Paris before being killed by police.
‘You will die’
Laurent described a violent struggle with the gunman during which he tore off Coulibaly’s hoodie. Found at the scene later, police used it to identify Coulibaly through his DNA.
Laurent kept hanging on to the weapon.
“He told me ‘You want to play, you will die.’ While keeping a hold on the Kalashnikov, he dipped his other hand into his pocket and brought out an automatic pistol,” Laurent said.
But Coulibaly did not kill Laurent. Prosecutors believe his life may have been spared by a jammed pistol.
After the attacker ran off, Laurent saw the policewoman inert on the ground, and his colleague sitting up with blood pouring from his face.
“I had to make a choice, and I went to the one who was sitting up” to try and stem the bleeding, he told the court.
The municipal worker said that for him it was “clear from the beginning” that Coulibaly’s real target was the Jewish school near to where the shooting took place.
“It was time for classes to start. A few minutes after [the shooting] the doors were closed. I must have messed up his timing,” Laurent testified.
All four of Coulibaly’s supermarket victims the following day were Jewish.
Coulibaly had recorded a video saying the attacks were coordinated and carried out in the name of the Islamic State jihadist group.
He was killed when police stormed the supermarket. The Kouachi brothers were killed on the same day by officers carrying out an operation at a print shop where they were holed up northeast of Paris.