‘A real war scene’: three gendarmes were killed and a fourth wounded during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday in an isolated hamlet in central France. They intervened to rescue a woman threatened by her companion.
‘Hundreds and hundreds of casings’ were found near the couple’s burned-down home, in the isolated hamlet of Cros, Clermont-Ferrand Public Prosecutor Éric Maillaud told the press.
Excluding terrorism, ‘this is one of the most tragic events’ in the history of the gendarmerie, said Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. He came to the scene to support the comrades of the victims, their widows and the four children who are now fatherless.
The soldiers were fatally injured as they tried to rescue a refugee woman on the roof of her house after being hit on the head by her companion. It was she who alerted the emergency services, via a friend, when she was without her two daughters born from a previous union.
Mr. Maillaud indicated that the chronology of events was far from established. A first patrol dispatched on the spot would have distinguished a weapon and asked for reinforcements.
The gunman then burns his house. Therefore, the priority is ‘to save a woman from the flames and a potentially violent spouse’, said the magistrate. The madman would have opened fire without prior threats on the gendarmes, of whom we do not yet know in what order they were hit.
‘Very disturbing profile’
The soldiers, aged 21, 37 and 45, died “in particularly despicable circumstances”, denounced Mr. Darmanin. A fourth ‘miraculously survived’, saved by his bulletproof vest.
The murderer, ‘perfectly seasoned in the operation of weapons’ – he was sport shooting -, had ‘extraordinary military equipment’: a Glock and an AR15 assault rifle equipped with a silencer, a torch and a laser sight. He wore a bulletproof vest and four knives on his belt.
This man with a ‘very disturbing’ profile was’ Catholic, very religious, even extremist. Survivalist. It would seem that he was convinced of the end of the world, ‘said Mr. Maillaud.
A very important device had been deployed during the night to try to apprehend the suspect who had fled behind the wheel of his car. His body was finally discovered in the morning near his overturned 4×4, about 1.5 kilometers from his home. “There is every reason to believe that he committed suicide,” said the prosecutor.
President Emmanuel Macron quickly paid tribute to the three ‘heroes’ killed. Prime Minister Jean Castex considered that this tragedy “mourned the whole country”.
Very shocked, the shooter’s companion was hospitalized and could not be questioned by the investigators. She had recently been in a relationship with the shooter, who was taking pruner training after working in Dubai for a while. The prosecution was not informed of the existence of domestic violence.
The scene of the drama, located in a mid-mountain area, is particularly isolated. The village of Saint-Just has only 157 inhabitants.
Apart from terrorism, attacks with firearms against the police are relatively rare in France. We have to go back to June 2012 and the murder of two women gendarmes in Collobrières (south) during an intervention for a neighborhood conflict. Since the beginning of the year, eleven police officers and gendarmes have died in the exercise of their functions, recalled Mr. Darmanin.