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France heightens security after unrest prompted by police shooting of teenager

NANTERRE, FRANCE (AP) – France’s government yesterday announced heightened police presence around Paris and other big cities and called for calm after scattered violence erupted over the death of a 17-year-old delivery driver who was shot and killed during a police check.

The killing prompted nationwide concern and widespread messages of indignation and condolences.

French President Emmanuel Macron called the young man’s death “inexplicable and inexcusable”.

It also triggered unrest in multiple towns around Paris. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 31 people were arrested, 25 police officers injured and 40 cars burned in overnight unrest.

The tensions focused around the Paris suburb of Nanterre, where lawyers say 17-year-old Nael M was killed on Tuesday during a traffic check. The police officer suspected of firing on him was detained and faces potential manslaughter charges, according to the Nanterre prosecutor’s office.

Flowers attached to a pole where a young man was killed by a police officer in Nanterre, outside Paris, France. PHOTO: AP

The Nanterre neighbourhood where Nael lived remained on edge yesterday, with police on guard around the regional administration, and burned car wreckage and overturned garbage bins still visible in some areas. Bouquets of orange and yellow roses were tied to the post where the car crashed after the shooting, on Nanterre’s Nelson Mandela Square.

Nael’s mother appealed online for a silent march today in her son’s honour, near the scene of his death.

Videos purported to be of the incident were “extremely shocking”, Darmanin said, pledging a full investigation. The images show two police officers leaning into the driver-side window of a yellow car, before the vehicle pulls away as one officer fires into the window. The car is later seen crashed into a post nearby.

Macron called for calm and for respect for Nael’s loved ones. Asked about police abuses, he said justice should be allowed to run its course.

“Nothing justifies the death of a young person,” he told reporters in Marseille.

Darmanin said 1,200 police were deployed overnight and 2,000 would be out in force in the Paris region and around other big cities to “maintain order.”

Deadly use of firearms is less common in France than in the United States. Tuesday’s death unleashed anger in Nanterre and other towns, including around housing projects where many residents struggle with poverty and discrimination and feel police abuse is under-punished.

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.