Grandmother of teen killed by a police officer in France pleads for a halt to rioting

The officer accused of killing the teen was given a preliminary charge of voluntary homicide.

France police kill teen (NH File Photo)
France police kill teen (NH File Photo)


The grandmother of a teenager shot dead during a police traffic stop in a Paris suburb pleaded for the rioting to stop on the sixth straight night of unrest, while authorities expressed outrage over the targeting of a Mayor's home with a burning car as his family was sleeping.

The grandmother of the 17-year-old, known publicly by his first name, Nahel, said in a telephone interview with French news broadcaster BFM TV, "Don't break windows, buses ... schools. We want to calm things down."

"I'm telling them [the rioters] to stop," said the grandmother, who was identified only as Nadia and spoke a day after the teen's funeral, CBC News reported.

"Nahel is dead. My daughter is lost ... she doesn't have a life anymore."

Protests have erupted across France since the teen, who was reportedly of north African descent, was shot Tuesday in the chest while driving away from a traffic stop in Nanterre, a working-class suburb 15 km from central Paris, CBC News reported.

Nahel's grandmother said she was angry at the officer who killed her grandson, but not at police in general, and expressed faith in the justice system as France faces its worst social upheaval in years.

The officer accused of killing Nahel was given a preliminary charge of voluntary homicide.

Thirteen people who didn't comply with traffic stops were fatally shot by French police last year, and three this year, prompting demands for more accountability. 

On Sunday, Vincent Jeanbrun, Mayor of the southern suburb of L'Hay-les-Roses, said his wife and one of their children, aged five and seven, were injured as they fled their home in the early hours. 

During the incident at his home, Jeanbrun, from the conservative Les Republicains party, was at the town hall monitoring the violence. The town hall has been the target of attacks for several nights since the shooting of Nahel, and has been protected with barbed wire and barricades.

Jeanbrun said the attack represented a new stage of "horror and ignominy" in the unrest, and he urged the government to impose a state of emergency.

The local prosecutor told reporters that an investigation into attempted murder had been opened. No suspects have been arrested, CBC News reported.

The prosecutor said the woman was injured as she fled through the backyard of the house.

In a less chic neighbourhood of northern Paris, protesters set off firecrackers and lit barricades on fire as police shot back with tear gas and stun grenades.

Skirmishes erupted in the Mediterranean city of Marseille but appeared less intense than the night before, according to the Interior Ministry. A bolstered police contingent arrested 55 people there, CBC News reported.

Across the country, arrests were lower than the night before. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin attributed that to "the resolute action of security forces". Police made 719 arrests by early Sunday.

Darmanin said the latest overnight riots had been less intense, after 45,000 police were deployed following Saturday's funeral of Nahel in the Paris suburb of Nanterre. Since he was shot on Tuesday, rioters have torched cars and looted stores, but they've also targeted state institutions — town halls and police stations.

Amid the unrest, a Second World War monument in Nanterre commemorating Holocaust victims and members of the French resistance was vandalized on the sidelines of a silent march on Thursday to pay tribute to Nahel.

The slogans included "Don't forgive or forget" and "Police, rapists, assassins." The European Jewish Congress denounced the vandalism as a "shameful act of disrespect for the memory of the victims of the Holocaust."

More than 3,000 people have been detained overall since Nahel's death.

The mass police deployment has been welcomed by some frightened residents of targeted neighbourhoods and shop owners whose stores have been ransacked, but it has further frustrated those who see police behaviour as the core of France's current crisis.

President Emmanuel Macron was holding a special security meeting Sunday night, and it was not clear whether he would make public comments. Macron has delayed what would have been the first state visit to Germany by a French president in 23 years, starting Sunday evening.

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