The French National Gendarmerie is in mourning. Three agents died and one was wounded by a bullet when they intervened between Tuesday night and yesterday in a case of sexist violence. The murderer committed suicide. His partner, who had to take refuge on the roof of the house to save himself, managed to be rescued and is safe and sound.
French President Emmanuel Macron called the deceased gendarmes “heroes”. «The nation joins the pain of the families. To protect us, our forces act at the risk of their own lives. They are our heroes ”, wrote on social networks the head of the Elysee, in quarantine after having tested positive last week for coronavirus.
What seemed to be a routine intervention in a case of domestic violence became “a criminal horror” that has “traumatized” the National Gendarmerie on Christmas Eve, as the public prosecutor in Clermont-Ferrand explained at a press conference, Eric Maillaud. “We have all had to confront a real scene of war,” he explained. Hundreds and hundreds of caps. A burned house, an overly armed individual. It is obviously an atypical scenario, “he added, visibly moved by what happened.
A gendarmerie patrol traveled to Saint-Just, a small town of 160 inhabitants in the department of Puy-de-Dôme (center of the country) after they were alerted that an act of domestic violence was taking place.
It was the victim herself who raised the alarm Tuesday night through a friend. She said that her new partner, Frédéric Limole, had hit her in the face. The victim has two daughters, but was alone with Limole at her home when the events occurred. Until then, to the knowledge, there had been no complaints of spousal violence.
Upon reaching the house, the gendarmes saw an armed man and called for reinforcements. Then flames began to rise from the house. “The priority is to save the woman from the flames and from an extremely violent spouse,” explained the prosecutor. The victim, who had taken refuge on the roof, was rescued by the gendarmes, while Limole fired at them, managing to kill three officers.
The deceased gendarmes – Arno Mavel, Rémis Dupuis and Cyrille Morel – belonged to Ambert’s brigade and were between 21 and 45 years old. A fourth gendarme was injured by a bullet in the thigh, but his life is not in danger. After shooting at the policemen, the man fled the town in his 4×4, lost control of the vehicle 1.5 kilometers away and crashed into a tree. He was found dead “with a Glock weapon in his hand.” Everything indicates that he committed suicide by shooting himself in the temple. The autopsy must determine the cause of death.
In addition to the automatic pistol, the killer carried an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, equipped with a silencer, flashlight and a laser sighting system. He also had four knives on his belt, Maillaud said. “It is an extremely complex crime scene and we are far from having all the answers,” he explained while being convinced that the killer “was determined to cause a carnage, regardless of who the people were.”
Limole, who had had a brief military training, practiced sport shooting and participated in competitions. After living for a time in Dubai, he returned to France, where he worked as a pruner. According to the first investigations, he had a “disturbing” profile, the prosecutor pointed out. A very practicing Catholic, he was an “extremist.” He had taken several survival courses and “was convinced that the end of the world was near.”
He had been divorced in 2015 and had had conflicts with his previous partner for not passing alimony to the daughter they had. His ex-wife had reported him for domestic violence. Limole was having a hard time not being able to see his daughter, the prosecutor said.
“The tragic circumstances of these deaths remind us of the risks officers are exposed to on a daily basis,” said Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who recalled that in 2020 eleven police officers or gendarmes have died in acts of service in France.