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Three French police die in ‘war zone’ shooting

By AFP - Dec 23,2020 - Last updated at Dec 23,2020

SAINT-JUST, France — Three police officers were killed and a fourth wounded in central France on  Wednesday when a man opened fire as they responded to a domestic violence call, the deadliest attack in years on French security forces outside of terrorism incidents.

The suspect, a 48-year-old man known to authorities for child custody disputes and identified only as Frederik L., was found dead several hours after fleeing the home in an isolated hamlet near Saint-Just, a village of some 160 people south of Clermont-Ferrand, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

He was “very determined to create a massacre”, the prosecutor in the case, Eric Maillaud, told a news conference.

He said the man had been heavily armed, and police found “hundreds and hundreds” of cartridge cases at the scene.

“It was truly like a war zone,” Maillaud said.

Darmanin, who travelled to the scene, called the killing “one of the most tragic events in the history” of France’s Gendarmes force, which often ensures law enforcement in rural areas.


Amateur shooter 


The prosecutor said that the suspect fled the scene by car but, about 1.5 kilometres  away, lost control of the vehicle which veered off the road and tumbled down a slope.

Some 300 police searched for hours for the man, eventually locating the car and his body next to it.

He wore a bullet-proof vest, and police found an arsenal of weapons, including a Glock pistol, an assault rifle with a silencer, a flare, a laser-guided targeting device and four knives.

Early indications were that he killed himself with one of his weapons, according to a preliminary coroner’s report.

At the house Frederik L. had opened fire at two officers who arrived there shortly after midnight after being alerted to a reported domestic assault.

One was killed immediately and the other shot in the thigh before the man set fire to the house, where a woman had climbed onto the roof.

Police reinforcements and firefighters were rushed to the scene, and all roads leading to the house were blocked off.

Two other police who were trying to determine if rescue officers could reach their shot colleagues were then fired on and killed by the suspect, who had barricaded himself in the house.

“He was an amateur shooter,” a police source said.


‘History of violence’ 


Darmanin’s deputy Marlene Schiappa told BFM television that the woman herself had called police to say she was being threatened, adding that the husband appeared to have “a history of violence”.

The woman and her child were safely rescued.

The officers killed, gendarmes from France’s military police, were identified as Arno Mavel, 21; Remi Dupuis, 37; and Cyrille Morel, 45.

They leave behind widows and a total of four children, Darmanin said.

“Our security forces put their lives at risk to protect us. These are our heroes,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a tweet.

Aside from terror attacks, shootings of police officers in France are rare.

Last May, a man fired at police from his house in the Gironde region of southwest France, wounding one officer. As he was about to fire again, he was shot dead by police.

The most recent killings of officers in the line of duty, excluding terrorism, occurred in June 2012, when two female officers died in Collobrieres, southern France, while intervening in a dispute between neighbours.

But French security forces say they have increasingly been targeted in recent years as they struggle to carry out Macron’s promise to reduce crime and insecurity.

Darmanin said Wednesday that 11 police have been killed in the line of duty this year.

Among the most high-profile incidents in recent months, two undercover officers were shot during a surveillance operation in a Paris suburb in October, while later that month a station outside Paris was attacked by dozens of people armed with powerful fireworks and steel bars.


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