Paris: Four killed by colleague in knife attack at police headquarters

Civil servant attacked woman supervisor and three male police officers with kitchen knife

A police vehicle drives towards police headquarters in Paris after a knife attack on Thursday. Photograph: Martin Bureau/AFP

A police vehicle drives towards police headquarters in Paris after a knife attack on Thursday. Photograph: Martin Bureau/AFP

 

A civil servant in the Paris police prefecture killed four colleagues with a kitchen knife at lunchtime on Thursday before he was shot dead.

The investigation was entrusted to the crime brigade and the incident is being treated as a workplace conflict.

The 45-year-old attacker was a deaf, mute, computer technician in the intelligence section of the prefecture. He had worked at the prefecture since 2003 and was considered a model employee.

Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz said police were searching the attacker’s home, and that anti-terrorist investigators were evaluating what had happened, for any terrorist links. The attacker’s wife has been detained.

The assailant fatally stabbed his boss, a woman administrator, and wounded a second woman in the office where he worked. Interior minister Christophe Castaner said the wounded woman had been operated on, and that he had received “reassuring news” about her condition.

The attacker’s other victims, all policemen, were killed in another office, in a staircase and in the courtyard; he was shot dead in the courtyard by a policeman with his service weapon.

The murder weapon was a kitchen knife with a ceramic blade, which may explain how it escaped notice in the metal detectors present at all entries to the building, which fills an entire block near Notre-Dame Cathedral.

A police officers install a security perimeter near Paris prefecture de police (police headquarters) after four officers were killed in a knife attack. Photograph: Geoffrey Van Der Hasselt/AFP via Getty Images
A police officers install a security perimeter near Paris prefecture de police (police headquarters) after four officers were killed in a knife attack. Photograph: Geoffrey Van Der Hasselt/AFP via Getty Images

Christophe Crépin, the spokesman for the France-Police-Policiers en colère group, said the killings appeared to be a “hierarchical tragedy” and that the attacker had problems with the woman in charge of his service.

Cordon

The police headquarters was locked down and the area cordoned off. Employees were evacuated.

“People were running every which way. People were crying everywhere,” Emery Siamandi, an interpreter who was inside the prefecture at the time of the attack, told Agence France Presse. “I heard a shot fired inside. A few seconds later, I saw policewomen crying. They were panicked.”

Military forces establish a security perimeter near Paris police headquarters. Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA
Military forces establish a security perimeter near Paris police headquarters. Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA

President Emmanuel Macron went to the prefecture with prime minister Edouard Philippe and the Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz. Mr Macron wanted “to show his support and solidarity for all the staff,” the Élysée said.

“The toll is heavy. Several policemen have lost their lives. In my name and in the name of Parisians, my first thoughts go to the families of the victims,” mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted.

Tens of thousands of policemen had demonstrated in Paris on Wednesday to protest against what they say are poor working conditions and a lack of public respect.

A police officer and his partner were murdered in front of their young son in Magnanville, northwest of Paris, in 2016. The following year, policeman Xavier Jugelé was shot dead while on guard duty on the Champs-Élysées. Both attacks were claimed by Islamists.

French police have been severely criticised for the violent repression of gilets jaunes protests from last autumn through the spring. After Mr Macron said police needed to “rethink” methods in August, the leading police union Alliance demanded an “anti-suicide plan” for the police.

At least 47 police, including four women, took their own lives between the 1st of January and the end of August, an average of one every five days.