France fears fresh riots after teenage driver shot dead by traffic police

Unrest in Paris after death of 17-year-old with Algerian background

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Paris is braced for further riots after a teenage delivery driver was shot and killed during a police check.

Authorities said he had failed to stop, however, a video emerged which showed two policemen speaking to him by the side of a stationary car.

The killing prompted nationwide concern and widespread messages of condolences, including from French football star Kylian Mbappe. French President Emmanuel Macron called the young man's death “inexplicable and inexcusable.”

It also triggered unrest in multiple towns around Paris. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 31 people were arrested, 25 police officers injured and 40 cars burned in overnight unrest.

France braced for more angry protests on Wednesday, with the government saying it would deploy 2,000 riot police to deal with any unrest.

Prosecutors said the 17-year-old was in the Paris suburb of Nanterre early on Tuesday when police shot him dead after he broke road rules and failed to stop.

He was named locally as Nael M, a member of a family with an Algerian background.

Police initially reported that one officer shot at the teenager because he was driving his car at him, but this version of events was contradicted by a video circulating on social media and authenticated by AFP.

The footage shows the two policemen standing by the side of the stationary car, with one pointing a weapon at the driver. A voice is heard saying “You are going to get a bullet in the head.”

The police officer then appears to fire point-blank as the car abruptly drives off.

Riots erupt as teenager shot dead by police in Paris

Riots erupt as teenager shot dead by police in Paris

The car moved a few dozen metres before crashing. The driver died shortly after. There were two passengers in the car. One ran off and the other, also a teenager, was briefly detained.

His death sparked immediate protests in Nanterre, a western Paris suburb.

Nael M's mother posted a video on the TikTok platform calling for a tribute march for her son on Thursday. “This is a revolt for my son,” she said.

Celebrities and politicians expressed outrage and grief at the death of the teenager, with Mr Macron calling it “inexplicable” and “unforgivable”.

“A teenager was killed. That is inexplicable and unforgivable,” Mr Macron said during an official visit to Marseille, southern France.

“Nothing can justify the death of a young person.”

The case had “moved the entire nation”, he said, also expressing “respect and affection” for the family of the victim.

The 38-year-old officer accused of firing on the driver has been detained on homicide charges, the Nanterre prosecutor's office said.

Protesters in Nanterre lit fires, set a car alight and destroyed bus stops as tension soared between police and locals.

Bins were set alight and a fire broke out at a music school, while police tried to disperse the protesters with tear gas.

Protests then broke out in some neighbouring suburbs.

The IGPN national police inspectorate has opened an investigation into possible intentional killing by a person holding a position of public authority.

A separate investigation is being carried out by regional police into the driver's failure to halt and alleged attempt to kill a person holding a position of public authority.

The family's lawyer Yassine Bouzrou told BFM TV that while all parties needed to wait for the result of the investigation the images “clearly showed a policeman killing a young man in cold blood”.

“This is a long way from any kind of legitimate defence,” he said and added that the family had filed a complaint, accusing police of “lying” by initially claiming the car had tried to run down the officers.

Nanterre Mayor Patrick Jarry said he was “shocked” by the video images and passed his “sincere condolences to the boy's mother”.

“He hopes that the investigations opened … will make it possible to shed light as quickly as possible on the exact circumstances of this tragedy,” his office said.

Samia Bough, the teenager's former neighbour, came to lay a bouquet of yellow roses at the scene.

“It's so sad, he was so young,” she said.

Celebrities also voiced disgust, concern and outrage at the shooting.

“I am hurting for my France,” tweeted Mbappe, captain of the French men's national football team and star player at Paris Saint-Germain.

“An unacceptable situation. All my thoughts go to the friends and family of Nael, that little angel who left us far too soon,” Mbappe said.

Actor Omar Sy, famous for his role in the film “The Intouchables” and the “Lupin” TV show, said on Twitter: “I hope that justice worthy of the name will honour the memory of this child.”

Green party leader Marine Tondelier said, “what I see on this video is the execution by police of a 17-year-old kid, in France, in 2023, in broad daylight”.

“I heard a policeman lie, his colleague lie, the prosecutor lie and the media lie”, she said, adding: “You get the feeling that our police is becoming like America's.”

Far-left politician Jean-Luc Melenchon said that “France no longer has the death penalty”, and called for “a complete redesign of the police force”.

Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure said: “A refusal to stop does not provide a licence to kill.”

Mr Darmanin – who has previously backed the police in similar situations – called the video footage “extremely shocking” in parliament.

On Wednesday, he said the officer would be suspended “if the charges against him are maintained”.

Paris police chief Laurent Nunez, meanwhile, described the shooter as a “seasoned police sergeant who had the trust of his superiors”.

In 2022, a record 13 people were killed in France after refusing to stop for police traffic checks.

Authorities and police unions blame the 2022 figures on more dangerous driving behaviour, but researchers also point to a 2017 law modifying the conditions of the use of weapons by the police.

Two weeks ago, a 19-year-old was shot by a police officer after allegedly hitting an officer during a traffic stop in the western town of Angouleme.

Updated: June 28, 2023, 1:35 PM