Tensions mount in Paris as teenagers and police clash in Nanterre after a 17-year-old boy was fatally shot by a police officer.

  • The aftermath of clashes in Nanterre after demonstrations over use of lethal force. (AFP)
    The aftermath of clashes in Nanterre after demonstrations over the use of lethal force (AFP)

A French police officer is being investigated for homicide after killing a teenager who reportedly attempted to flee a traffic check outside Paris, the local prosecutor’s office said.

The incident prompted shock and raised questions over the readiness of security forces to resort to violence.

The 17-year-old boy, named only as Nael M., was driving in a rental car in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre early on Tuesday when the police pulled him over for breaking several road rules, prosecutors said.

One officer is seen pointing his gun at the driver through the window. A voice is heard saying "You are going to get a bullet in the head." Soon after the driver drove off in a video that has been circulating on social media and was verified by AFP, the police officer appears to fire point blank.

The car moved a few dozen meters before crashing.

Un exemple parmi tant d'autre... La conductrice ivre en course-poursuite qui refusait d'obtempérer à plusieurs reprises. Bizarrement ici ils étaient très patients et essayaient de trouver une solution sans causer de drame.Pour Nael sa a été simple tué a seulement 17 ans.#Nanterre pic.twitter.com/ak5WA7LL1f

— ᴬ (@iamassiette) June 28, 2023

Emergency services tried to resuscitate him at the scene, but he died shortly afterward.

The policeman accused of firing on the driver has been detained on homicide charges, the Nanterre prosecutor’s office said.

Sporadic clashes erupted between youths and police on Tuesday evening as rage over the killing of the teenager ignited in the local community. Some groups destroyed a bus stop, set fire to garbage cans and barricades, and tossed firecrackers at police, who then dispersed the crowd using tear gas and dispersion grenades.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Wednesday that 31 people had been arrested overnight, 24 police slightly injured and around 40 cars torched.

Nael M.'s lawyer, Yassine Bouzrou, said he would file a legal complaint against the policeman for voluntary manslaughter and against his colleague for complicity in the shooting.

The lawyer also said he would file a further complaint for false testimony against the policemen for claiming that Nael M. had tried to run them over.

Reactions to the murder

Celebrities and some politicians voiced disgust, concern, and outrage at the shooting.

"I am hurting for my France," tweeted Kylian Mbappe, captain of the French men's national football team and star player at the Paris Saint-Germain club. 

"An unacceptable situation. All my thoughts go to the friends and family of Nael, that little angel who left us far too soon," Mbappe said.

Actor Omar Sy, famous for his role in the film "The Intouchables" and the "Lupin" TV show, said on Twitter: "I hope that justice worthy of the name will honour the memory of this child."

Far-left politician Jean-Luc Melenchon said that "France no longer has the death penalty", and called for "a complete redesign of the police force".

Darmanin -- who has previously backed the police in similar situations -- called the video footage "extremely shocking" in parliament.

Not an isolated incident 

In 2022, a record 13 deaths were recorded after refusals to stop for traffic controls. Five policemen have been charged in these cases.

The authorities and police unions blame the 2022 figures on more dangerous driving behavior, but researchers also point to a 2017 law modifying the conditions of the use of their weapons by the police. The bulk of the victims in deadly shootings in 2021 and 2022, according to a Reuters count, were Black or of Arab descent.

Two weeks ago, a 19-year-old was killed by a policeman he had injured in the legs with his car in the western town of Angouleme.

The left reacted with anger, saying the police had no right to kill people simply because they refused to stop.

“Yes, a refusal to stop is against the law. But death is not one of the sanctions provided for by the Penal Code,” tweeted the coordinator of the hard-left France Unbowed party, Manuel Bompard.

“A refusal to stop does not provide a license to kill,” said Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure as quoted by AFP.

Read more: Iran: French police must show self-restraint amid police brutality

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