Mother of French shooting victim Nahel M says officer 'saw an Arab face'

The 17-year-old was shot dead at point blank range on Tuesday during traffic stop

Crowds protest during a memorial march for French teenager, Nahel M, who was killed by police in Nanterre, a suburb of Paris. Getty
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The mother of Nahel M, the 17-year-old shot dead by police during a traffic stop in France, said the officer “saw an Arab face” and “wanted to take his life”.

Police initially reported that the officer shot the teenager at point-blank range on Tuesday because he was driving his car towards him, but a video later emerged on social media contradicting the claim.

The footage shows 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.

The car moved a few dozen metres before crashing.

In her first media interview since the shooting, Nahel's mother, Mounia, told the France 5 channel: “I don't blame the police, I blame one person: the one who took the life of my son.”

She said the 38-year-old officer responsible, who was detained and charged with voluntary manslaughter on Thursday, “saw an Arab face, a little kid, and wanted to take his life”. Nahel was of Algerian and Moroccan descent.

The killing sparked violent protests that have spread well beyond Paris and led to 667 arrests across the country as of Friday morning.

France endures third night of riots after police shoot teenager

France endures third night of riots after police shoot teenager

A memorial march for Nahel led by his mother ended with riot police firing tear gas in a third night of unrest as several cars were set alight in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre, where the teenager lived and was killed.

The Nanterre prosecutor, Pascal Prache, said officers tried to stop Nahel because he looked so young and was driving a Mercedes with Polish licence plates in a bus lane.

He allegedly ran a red light to avoid being stopped then got stuck in traffic. Both officers involved said they drew their guns to prevent him from fleeing.

Paris protests following killing of teenager – in pictures

The officer who fired a single shot said he feared he and his colleague or someone else could be hit by the car, said the prosecutor. The officers said they felt “threatened” as the car drove off.

The police officer accused of pulling the trigger on Tuesday was handed a preliminary charge of voluntary homicide after Mr Prache said his initial investigation led him to conclude “the conditions for the legal use of the weapon were not met.”

The detained police officer’s lawyer, Laurent-Franck Lienard, told French channel BFM-TV his client was sorry and “devastated.”

The officer did what he thought was necessary in the moment, Mr Lienard said.

“The first words he pronounced were to say sorry and the last words he said were to say sorry to the family,” he added.

“He doesn’t get up in the morning to kill people. He really didn’t want to kill.

“But now he must defend himself, as he is the one who is detained and sleeping in prison.”

Updated: June 30, 2023, 9:30 AM