French officer says shooting ‘accidental’ after nights of riots

Nantes: A French policeman who shot dead a young black man in western France earlier this week, sparking three nights of rioting, changed his explanation of the death on Friday, saying he fired his weapon by accident.
The officer had initially claimed he acted in self-defence while trying to arrest the 22-year-old in the city of Nantes on Tuesday, but he has offered a different version of events while being questioned in custody.
“He recognises he made a statement that did not conform with the truth,” his lawyer Laurent-Franck Lienard said on Friday.
The policeman has told investigators from the IGPN police oversight body that “it was accidental shot” that killed the man, identified as Aboubakar, who was under surveillance for suspected drug trafficking.
He died from a single bullet wound to the neck on Tuesday evening after police stopped him in his car in the Breil neighbourhood of Nantes, which is home to a large public housing estate with a history of gang violence.
Police initially said that Aboubakar had resisted arrest and tried to reverse his car into an officer. But a witness who spoke to AFP said the car was stationary when the policeman opened fire. Dozens of cars and several buildings were torched in Nantes overnight Thursday-Friday in a third night of rioting over the killing.
Gangs of youths set fire to 52 cars —including the mayor’s personal vehicle — and several buildings, including two schools, causing dismay among local residents.
Four people were arrested, including a 14-year-old carrying a petrol can and matches. There have also been more than a dozen arrests elsewhere this week, including in Garges-les-Gonesse, the Paris suburb where Aboubakar grew up. The unrest has again highlighted tensions in deprived urban areas of France.
Local youths often complain about heavy-handed policing and brutality, while the security forces are frequently treated as targets and they struggle to combat violent drug-dealing gangs. — AFP