The police officer who shot and killed a teenager during a traffic stop in Paris has asked the family of the boy for forgiveness.
His lawyer Laurent-Franck Lienard told BFMTV: “The first words he pronounced were to say sorry and the last words he said were to say sorry to the family.
“He is devastated, he doesn’t get up in the morning to kill people. He didn’t want to kill him.”
Mr Lienard added that his client’s detention was being used to try to calm rioters.
The 17-year-old victim, named only as Nahel M, was known to police for previously failing to comply with traffic stop orders, public prosecutor Pascal Prache said.
He was shot during Tuesday’s morning rush hour after failing to stop when the Mercedes AMG he was driving was spotted in a bus lane in Nanterre, a small town on the outskirts of Paris.
Two police officers caught up with the car in a traffic jam and when the car tried to get away, one officer fired at close range through the driver’s window.
Nahel died from a single shot through his left arm and chest, Nanterre public prosecutor Pascal Prache said.
Unrest has spread across France as President Emmanuel Macron fights to control a spiralling crisis sparked by the shooting.
France’s Interior Ministry says at least 421 people have been arrested across France overnight, Thursday into Friday, with 242 of those arrests in the Greater Paris region.
On Thursday, 40,000 police officers were deployed across France – nearly four times the number mobilised on Wednesday.
However, there were few signs that appeals from the government to de-escalate the situation were having any effect.
In Nanterre, the town on the outskirts of Paris where Nahel died, protesters torched cars, barricaded streets and hurled projectiles at police following a vigil.
“Vengeance for Nahel” was scrawled across buildings and as night fell a bank was set on fire before firefighters put it out and an elite police unit deployed an armoured vehicle.
In central Paris, a Nike store was broken into, resulting in the arrests of 14 people.
Sixteen more were arrested with stolen objects after store windows were smashed along the rue de Rivoli shopping street.
National police said on Thursday night that officers faced new incidents in Marseille, Lyon, Pau, Toulouse and Lille, including fires and fireworks.
Videos on social media showed numerous fires across the country, including at a bus depot in a suburb north of Paris and a tram in the eastern city of Lyon.
In Marseille, France’s second city, police fired tear gas grenades during clashes with youths in the tourist hot-spot of Le Vieux Port, the city’s main paper La Provence reported.
Unrest even spilled over into neighbouring Belgium with around a dozen arrested and riot police deployed on the streets of Brussels.
The incident has fed longstanding complaints of police violence and systemic racism inside law enforcement agencies from rights groups and within the low-income, racially mixed suburbs around major cities in France.
The local prosecutor said the officer involved had been put under formal investigation over voluntary homicide and would be held in prison in preventive detention.
Under France’s legal system, being placed under formal investigation is akin to being charged in the UK.
At a march in Nanterre in memory of Nahel, participants railed against what they perceived as a culture of police impunity and a failure to reform law enforcement in a country that has experienced waves of rioting and protests over police conduct.
Riding atop a flatbed lorry, the teenager’s mother waved to the crowd wearing a white T-shirt reading “Justice for Nahel” and the date of his death.
“I have nothing against the police. I have something against one person, he who killed my son. He did not have to kill my
son,” Nahel’s mother told France 5 television after the march.
Tuesday’s killing was the third fatal shooting during traffic stops in France so far in 2023, down from a record 13 last year, a spokesperson for the national police said.