Outrage in France over killing of policeman in drugs check
The 36-year-old officer and father of two was shot and killed Wednesday evening while investigating a gathering at the spot, interior minister Gerald Darmanin said.
The shooter remains at large.
The killing caused deep shock in Avignon, famed as the seat of Catholic popes in the 14th century and for hosting one of the world’s biggest theatre festivals every July.
Visiting the scene Wednesday evening, Darmanin hailed the dead officer, whose first name was given by La Provence newspaper as Eric, as a “soldier” who “died a hero” in a “war” against drug dealers.
The attack took place in the centre of Avignon, on a cobbled street running alongside a canal.
A team of plainclothes officers sent to investigate a suspected drug deal were carrying out identity checks on a group of people when one of them opened fire, a police source told AFP.
The man fired “several times” at the officer and the others returned fire but did not manage to apprehend the shooter before he fled through the historic heart of the city, the source said.
Another man suspected of being present in the group when it was raided was arrested Thursday.
“Everything is being done to ensure that this odious crime does not go unpunished,” Prime Minister Jean Castex tweeted.
Polls show that violent crime is a top concern of voters ahead of next year’s presidential election, in which Macron is expected to seek a second term.
An Elabe poll last month found that 65 percent of voters were unhappy with the president’s record on maintaining law and order.
In a recent interview with Le Figaro newspaper, Macron described the fight against the drug dealers that have taken over housing estates in parts of Paris, Marseille and other cities as “the mother of all battles.”
“I’m fighting for the right to live in peace,” Macron said.
– Police regularly targeted –
The police have cited Avignon among one of several southern cities now afflicted by the drugs-related violence that has long plagued Marseille, a key hub in the trans-Mediterranean marijuana and cocaine trade.
They accuse the state of not doing enough to protect them as they take the fight to drugs syndicates as well as radical Islamists.
Last month, a female police employee was stabbed to death by a Tunisian radical at a police station in the Paris suburb of Rambouillet, the latest in a string of terror attacks that have frequently targeted the security forces.
Eric Ciotti, an MP for the centre-right Republicans party, accused the government of “looking the other way” while “France sinks deeper into chaos every day.”
“Today we have to admit that the state is no longer protecting its officers,” Frederic Lagache, a representative of the Alliance police union, told AFP on Thursday.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen also expressed anger over the killing, accusing the state in a tweet of failing the security forces.
The deputy leader of the left-wing France Unbowed party, Adrien Quatennens, argued that it was time for France to reopen the debate about legalising marijuana.
© Agence France-Presse