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France police shooting: Macron holds crisis meeting as officer investigated

A police officer involved in the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy has been placed under formal investigation – akin to being charged – for voluntary homicide, as Emmanuel Macron struggles to contain spiralling public anger over the killing.

Thousands of people marched through Nanterre on Thursday in memory of the teen, identified as Nahel M. Carrying placards reading “Justice for Nahel” and led by his mother Mounia, the marchers shouted “No justice, no peace” and “Police kill”.

The French president held a morning crisis meeting with senior ministers after a second night of unrest and rioting across France in which public buildings were set on fire and cars torched in cities from Lille to Toulouse as well as in the Paris suburbs.

“The last few hours have been marked by scenes of violence against police stations but also schools and town halls, and thus institutions of the republic – and these scenes are wholly unjustifiable,” Macron said.

The government is haunted by the possibility of a repeat of the weeks of sustained violent protest sparked by the death of two young boys of African origin during a police chase in 2005.

The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said after the meeting that 40,000 police officers would be deployed across France on Thursday night, including 5,000 in the greater Paris region, nearly four times as many as on Wednesday.

Darmanin said a total of 180 arrests had been made after the riots on Wednesday. “The response of the state must be extremely firm,” he said. Both he and the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, ruled out declaring a state of emergency for now.

On Thursday, Borne was due to visit Garges-lès-Gonesse, north of Paris, where the mayor’s office was set on fire overnight amid rising public anger at police violence, particularly against young men from non-white minorities, and allegations of systemic racism.

Pascal Prache, the local prosecutor, told a news conference that investigating magistrates had placed the officer concerned under formal investigation for voluntary homicide, the equivalent in Anglo-Saxon jurisdictions of being charged.

“On the basis of the evidence gathered, the public prosecutor considers that the legal conditions for using the weapon have not been met,” Prache said, adding that the officer concerned had been remanded in custody.

The 17-year-old was shot in the western Paris suburb on Tuesday as he pulled away from police who tried to stop him. Prache said he had been pulled over for a range of traffic offences including speeding, jumping red lights and driving in a bus lane.

Police initially said one officer had shot at the teenager, who was not old enough to drive unaccompanied in France, because he was driving his car at him. That version was quickly contradicted by a video circulating on social media.

The video, verified by French news agencies, shows two police officers beside a Mercedes AMG car, with one shooting at the driver at close range as he pulled away. The boy died shortly afterwards from his wounds, prosecutors said.

Overnight on Wednesday protesters launched fireworks at police, set cars on fire and torched public buildings in towns in the suburbs around Paris, but also in the city of Toulouse in the south-west and towns across the north. There were also disturbances in Amiens, Dijon, St-Etienne, and outside Lyon.

French media reported incidents in numerous places across the greater Paris region. Videos on social media showed dozens of fireworks being directed at the Montreuil town hall, on the eastern edge of Paris.

Angelique Chrisafis and Jon Henley in Paris