French authorities have launched a criminal investigation following the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old driver by a police officer. The incident took place during a traffic stop near Paris. The incident has ignited a night of violence and reignited the ongoing debate surrounding the use of deadly force by the country’s security forces. Initial reports suggested that the driver had rammed into two officers with his car, but a video that surfaced later raised accusations of excessive police aggression. As a result, prosecutors in Nanterre have opened a manslaughter investigation.
The video, believed to be filmed by a witness, quickly spread on social media platforms and was subsequently picked up by French news outlets. It shows two helmeted police officers standing on the left side of a yellow car that had been pulled over. The officers can be heard shouting, although the exact nature of their interaction with the victim, identified as Nahel M., remains unclear. One of the officers leans onto the windshield, pointing what appears to be a firearm at the driver. As the car begins to move away, a loud bang is heard.
The officer involved in the teen’s shooting death is currently in police custody, although no charges have been filed against him yet. The driver’s family intends to file a complaint accusing the officer of murder. This incident has once again brought attention to allegations of police brutality in France, with critics arguing that the country’s authorities have been hesitant to acknowledge the issue. However, French leaders have spoken out forcefully about the teenager’s death, expressing rare criticism of the police and emphasizing the need for justice.
Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne addressed the lower house of Parliament, acknowledging the nation’s deep sorrow over the tragedy. She stated that the video footage of the incident revealed an operation that appeared to deviate from the rules of engagement for police forces. President Emmanuel Macron also expressed sympathy for the teenager’s family, emphasizing that the death of a young person is unjustifiable and inexcusable. Some political leaders have linked the shooting to a controversial 2017 law that grants police officers the authority to shoot at moving vehicles if they perceive them as a threat.
The shooting has reignited long-standing tensions between the police and residents in the suburbs, where relations are often strained. In 2005, the electrocution deaths of two teenagers fleeing from the police sparked widespread protests across the country. Following Nahel M.’s death, unrest erupted in the Hauts-de-Seine area, resulting in over 30 arrests. Protesters clashed with riot police, throwing rocks and fireworks, while also setting fire to cars, construction shacks, and buildings.
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced that 2,000 police officers and gendarmes would be deployed across France to contain any further violence. The incident has further eroded public trust in the police, with many expressing frustration over what they perceive as excessive use of force. The police officer involved in the shooting will face punishment if found guilty, according to Mr. Darmanin. The two officers involved in the incident are experienced members of the traffic police with no prior record of misconduct.