David Chazan — Telegraph.co.uk July 7, 2018
Rioting over the killing of a young black man by police erupted for the fourth consecutive night in the western French city of Nantes early Saturday despite an officer being charged with manslaughter.
Groups of youths from housing estates torched vehicles and hurled petrol bombs at police, who responded with tear gas.
A building was set on fire, but firefighters quickly brought the blaze under control. The clashes, which broke out after midnight, ended around dawn.
The unrest exposed tensions in deprived urban areas of France, where minorities complain of heavy-handed policing, and raised fears that clashes could spread.
The policeman who shot Aboubakar Fofana, 22, was charged on Friday night after abandoning his claim that he fired because the man was reversing at high speed towards a group of police and children.
The officer’s lawyer, Laurent-Franck Lienard, said: “He recognises that he made a statement that did not conform with the truth.”
After 24 hours of questioning, the policeman, who has not been named, told investigators that his gun went off “accidentally” as he struggled with Fofana, who was at the wheel of his car.
The officer, who has been released on bail, was described as “devastated” and “in a state of shock” after the death.
Five of his colleagues had backed his earlier version of events, which was challenged by witnesses.
Pierre Sennès, the Nantes prosecutor, said an arrest warrant for Fofana had been issued last year. He was suspected of “theft in an organised gang, handling stolen goods and criminal association.”
Since Fofana’s death on Tuesday, rioting has hit several areas of Nantes. Shops and public buildings have been ransacked or damaged and several dozen vehicles have been burned.
Clashes also broke out in Garges-lès-Gonnesse, the Paris suburb where the dead man lived. A police car was attacked and dustbins were set ablaze.
The deaths of young men while fleeing or resisting police have triggered riots in predominantly immigrant areas of France several times in recent decades.
Three weeks of nationwide rioting broke out in 2005 after the deaths of two youths who were electrocuted while hiding from police in an electrical substation.
Last year clashes erupted in a Paris suburb after police were accused of sodomising a young black man with a truncheon. Four officers were charged over the incident.