A 17-year-old delivery driver was shot and killed by a police officer Tuesday in a Paris suburb, according to his family’s lawyers. The death unleashed tensions between angry residents setting barricades on fire and police firing tear gas.
The police officer was detained on suspicion of manslaughter, according to the prosecutor’s office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre. It said the shooting took place during a traffic check.
The victim was wounded by a gunshot and died at the scene, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. A passenger in the car was briefly detained and released, and police are searching for another passenger who fled.
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Deadly use of firearms is less common in France than in the United States, and Tuesday’s death drew national attention.
A team of three lawyers for the driver identified him as 17-year-old Nael M. In a statement, the lawyers rejected a reported statement by the police that officers’ lives were in danger because the driver had threatened to run them over.
The lawyers cited a video reported to be of the incident circulating online that shows two police officers leaning into the driver-side window of a yellow car, before the vehicle pulls away and one officer fires toward the driver. The car is later seen crashed into a post nearby.
The death sparked unrest in the streets of Nanterre. Local residents held a protest outside the police headquarters. Some groups set alight barricades and garbage bins, smashed up a bus stop and threw firecrackers toward police, who responded with tear gas and dispersion grenades, according to videos broadcast on local media.
Several people have died or sustained injuries at the hands of French police in recent years, prompting demands for more accountability. France also saw protests against racial profiling and other injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police in Minnesota.