A French policeman in custody after killing a motorist


PARIS (AP) – A French police officer was in police custody Thursday after fatally shooting a driver who had not obeyed an order to stop, the latest in a series of events that raise questions about the use of lethal force by the police.

They also draw attention to the use of vehicles as weapons. The latest incident took place in the southern city of Nice on Wednesday as the trial of the July 14, 2016 truck attack that killed 86 people in Nice began this week in Paris.

Law enforcement said the driver refused to obey a stop order after officers noticed he was driving dangerously, but instead accelerated to flee.

Nice assistant prosecutor Maud Marty said that at one point the car “turned around to end up in front of the police car and hit it twice”. She said the 23-year-old officer fired a single shot at the driver.

Video posted on social media shows the car, in front of the crashed police vehicle, driving backwards as an officer in the street points his gun at the driver’s window. The officer fires just after the driver appears to stop the car.

Authorities said the man was driving a stolen car. The passenger was taken into custody on suspicion of attempted murder of police officers.

The mayor of Nice Christian Estrosi thanked the police on Twitter.

“Faced with a driver who was deliberately driving towards them, they had to use their weapon to neutralize him,” he wrote. “Refusals to obey multiply.”

Police unions said the officer acted in self-defense.

Benoit Barret, from the Alliance police union, told France 3 television that a vehicle can be used as a weapon. “Police, to save their lives, use their gun just to avoid being killed.”

French researcher Christian Mouhanna, from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), an expert on policing issues, said a major factor in why French police use their weapons more than before is the legal changes introduced in 2017 .

The new rule allowing officers to shoot is “vaguer” than the previous tougher self-defense rule, Mouhanna said. It provides that officers may use their weapon “in the event of force majeure and in a strictly proportionate manner” when they have no other means of stopping a vehicle whose driver disobeys the stop order and represents a threat.

The legal changes were notably made after a series of attacks by extremists in the country in 2015-2016.

“It is perceived by some police as allowing them to shoot when someone, with a vehicle, flees,” Mouhanna said.

In another incident on Wednesday in the western city of Rennes, a 22-year-old woman was killed after police opened fire on the car she was in during an anti-drug operation . The driver of the car was injured.

Earlier this year, a French policeman was charged with manslaughter after shooting dead two men in a car as they sought to evade a police check on the Pont-Neuf in central Paris on the evening of the re-election of French President Emmanuel Macron.

According to the France Info television channel, according to its own count in the absence of recent official statistics, nine people have been killed by the police in similar situations this year. Last year, four people were shot in such circumstances, according to police figures.

According to a report by the General Inspectorate of the National Police (IGPN), the use by officers of weapons to shoot at “moving vehicles” has increased from around 110 per year in 2012-2014 to more 150 in recent years.


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