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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

French police officer who fatally shot 17-year-old is charged

By CATHERINE PORTER and AURELIEN BREEDEN


A police officer who shot and killed a teenage driver, setting off rioting in French cities, was detained Thursday on charges of voluntary homicide.


But it was unclear if the officer’s detention would calm the widespread anger against the police, which has been simmering for years in France’s poorer urban centers. The teenager who was killed has been identified only as Nahel M., 17, a French citizen of Algerian and Moroccan descent.


The legal action came after riot police officers outside Paris fired tear gas canisters toward a crowd of people demonstrating against the killing. It was not immediately clear what had precipitated the use of tear gas, but some participants were seen setting off fireworks or lighting fires around the same time.


The unrest Thursday came after a second straight night of violence that convulsed more than a dozen cities.


President Emmanuel Macron has condemned both the killing and the riots that followed. He called the shooting of the teenager “inexcusable,” but said the violence was “absolutely unjustifiable,” appealing for calm and convening a crisis meeting.


Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, said that about 40,000 officers would be deployed across the country Thursday evening to try to contain further outbreaks of unrest — a major increase from the 9,000 deployed the night before.


Darmanin said 180 people had been arrested nationwide overnight and that 170 officers had been injured in what he called “a night of intolerable violence against symbols of the republic.”


Here is what to know:


— The rioting came after an officer shot and killed the driver during a traffic stop on Tuesday in Nanterre, west of Paris.


— The top prosecutor in Nanterre said at a news conference early Thursday that the “legal conditions for the use of the weapon have not been met.” The interior minister said the officer would be suspended from his job.


— The public anger has been compounded by the way the episode came to light. Initial accounts, provided to the French news media by what were described as anonymous police sources, claimed that the young man had plowed into officers during the traffic stop. But those reports were quickly contradicted by video of the shooting that showed that the officer who fired the shot did not appear to be in any immediate danger as the vehicle pulled away.

— Lawyers for the 17-year-old killed in the shooting have said they will file several complaints against the two officers involved. They plan to file one accusing the officer who fired the shot of murder, a second accusing the other officer of complicity, and a third accusing them of lying in their initial statements about the episode.


— Looming over the explosion of anger is the memory of riots that shook France in 2005, when two teenagers running from the police were electrocuted after hiding in an electrical substation, setting off weeks of violent protests.

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