Self-defense is not retained at this stage. The police officer who killed, on April 24, two men by shooting at their car near the Pont-Neuf in Paris, was indicted, Wednesday April 27, in particular for “intentional homicide against the driver of the vehicle”, learned franceinfo from a judicial source. While some police unions are calling, in response, for a rally on Monday May 2, franceinfo returns to the subject. 1What do we blame the police officer who fired the shots? The police officer was charged for several reasons. That of “voluntary homicide” concerns only the death of the driver of the vehicle. The latter, according to a police report, “rushed towards one of the officials who moved away to avoid him”, while the five police officers of the patrol were preparing to check him. That’s when the 24-year-old peacekeeper, the only one armed, opened fire with his assault rifle. He used “a dozen cartridges” and six bullet holes were found on the front windshield, a source familiar with the matter told France Télévisions. According to a judicial source, the policeman is also indicted for “willful violence by a person holding public authority resulting in death without intention to give it” concerning the other passenger who was in the front. Finally, he was indicted for “willful violence aggravated by a person holding public authority” towards the rear passenger, who is injured in the right arm, but whose days are not in danger. According to the report of the police, a taxi driver, who claims to have witnessed the whole scene, “confirmed the self-defense mentioned by the officials”. But the Paris prosecutor’s office clarified to Agence France Presse that numerous investigations, relating to the facts, partly of a criminal nature, still had to take place, in particular on the question of self-defense. At this stage, this circumstance is therefore not retained. Nevertheless, this can change during the instruction. 2How does self-defence apply to police officers? Self-defence is one of the causes of criminal irresponsibility: it applies when an offense has been voluntarily committed, but circumstances excuse it within a framework defined by law. In the winter of 2016, the police organized demonstrations, in particular to change the rules for the use of firearms by the police. They won their case: the law of February 28, 2017 widens the conditions under which the police can use their weapons and aligns their rights with those of the gendarmes. Article 453-1, applicable to all law enforcement agencies, specifies that this use must be made “in the event of absolute necessity and in a strictly proportionate manner”. Five circumstances are possible. First of all, the use of a weapon is authorized in the event of “attacks on the life or physical integrity” of the police officer or others. It is also so when, “after two summonses made aloud”, the officials cannot “otherwise defend the places they occupy or the persons entrusted to them”. Or, third scenario, if they fail to arrest people “likely to perpetrate, in their flight, attacks on their life or their physical integrity or those of others”. They can also use their weapon for “the exclusive purpose of preventing the reiteration, in a short time, of one or more murders or attempted murders which have just been committed”. In addition, police officers are permitted to use their weapon when they “cannot otherwise stop” vehicles “whose drivers do not obey the stop order”, but if, and only if, the occupants “are likely to perpetrate, in their flight, attacks on their life or their physical integrity or those of others”. The policeman seemed to be in this case when he opened fire near the Pont-Neuf. But, as BFMTV points out, the two investigating judges considered that his response had been disproportionate. However, for self-defence to apply, the response of the police officer must be equal to the gravity of the attack. 3Are there precedents? Three police officers were indicted in 2018 and 2020 in similar cases, still under investigation. More recently, a 32-year-old police officer was indicted for “intentional violence resulting in death without intention to give it”. This BAC brigadier wanted to check, on March 26, a van declared stolen, driven by a resident of the Beaudottes district in Sevran (Seine-Saint-Denis). When this motorist drove off, the police officer fired and fatally injured him. “An indictment for ‘involuntary homicide’, we see it regularly. On the other hand, ‘voluntary homicide’, which supposes that the police officer had the will to kill, it is very rare”, notes with franceinfo Fabien Jobard, research director at the CNRS, co-author of Sociologie de la police (ed. Armand Colin, 2015) with Jacques de Maillard. “The judge considers very likely that the police officer used his weapon without there being any danger, that he did so with the aim of injuring the life of the person at whom he fired, it that is to say that the policeman was in perfect control of his means when he used his weapon”, analyzes the researcher. 4How have the police unions reacted? The Alliance police union immediately challenged an “inadmissible decision” by the investigating judges. “This police officer is liable to assizes and thirty years of criminal imprisonment when he fired to protect his physical integrity and that of his colleagues in the field”, reacted, Wednesday evening, with franceinfo Stanislas Gaudon, general delegate of Alliance. For its part, the SGP Police Unit union reminded AFP that it wanted the establishment of “a court and specialized magistrates experienced in the difficulties of the police profession”. A request similar to that of Unsa Police, a union which “wonders” about the indictment of the peacekeeper who fired near the Pont-Neuf. “A few fractions of a second … This is the time allowed to a police officer engaged in an intervention situation to decide to use his weapon”, regrets the Unsa Police in a press release consulted by franceinfo. The union announces joining the rally organized by Alliance, Monday, May 2, at noon, in front of the Saint-Michel fountain in Paris, not far from the courthouse. A demonstration to defend “the self-defense and the presumption of self-defense of the police”. 5Why are the unions again talking about the “presumption of self-defence of police officers”? Alliance vigorously defends this measure, which was at the heart of its “grand oral” for presidential candidates, organized on February 2. It was worn during the campaign by Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour. The idea is far from new: the candidate of the National Rally had already integrated it into her program in 2012 and 2017, in the wake of her father in 2007, recalls Liberation. According to Olivier Cahn, researcher at the Center for Sociological Research on Law and Penal Institutions (Cesdip), this “presumption of self-defense” would result in reversing the burden of proof. “It would then be up to the person who believes he has been the victim of an abusive use of force to prove that the police officer was not in a state of self-defence”, he explains in La Croix. In Liberation, the national secretary of the Syndicate of the judiciary considers that this “facility” would be “hyperproblematic”. An opinion shared by Fabien Jobard: “You still have to decode what that means in law: it means that when the police officer uses force or his firearm, nothing can be done against him because he is presumed not responsible for his actions.”
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