Thursday, November 21, 2013
PARIS (AP) — After a two-day nationwide manhunt, French police arrested a man Wednesday night suspected of shooting a newspaper assistant photographer and three other attacks.
The motive for the attacks remains unclear.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls identified the suspect as Abdelhakim Dekhar, convicted in 1998 as an accomplice in a high-profile 1994 robbery and car chase that left three police officers and a taxi driver dead. Dekhar served four years in prison in the so-called Rey-Maupin affair but authorities had no trace of him in recent years, Valls said.
Based on DNA data, authorities believe he was the lone gunman behind Monday's shooting at the prominent daily newspaper Liberation, a shooting outside French bank Societe Generale, a brief hostage-taking in which the suspect hijacked a car, and a similar shooting incident three days before at news network BFM-TV.
The shooting prompted cries of concern about attacks on the media. Security was tightened at media offices and on the busy Champs-Elysees shopping avenue.
Dekhar apparently tried to kill himself before he was arrested Wednesday, Valls told reporters early Thursday.
Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman for the French prosecutor's office, said the suspect was arrested in an underground parking lot in Bois-Colombes, 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of Paris. She and police union official Christophe Crepin said the man appeared heavily medicated when he was detained.
"My colleagues noticed he was not very lucid. They deduced that he had taken medicines, because of the capsules nearby. They called the ambulance, which brought him to the hospital. There he is incarcerated but in a medical environment," Crepin told The Associated Press.
Dekhar was found after a witness reported to police that a suspect resembling images broadcast on national television since Monday had stayed at his house in recent days, said Paris judicial police chief Christian Flaesch.
Authorities had released video footage and photos of the shooter, who was wielding a pump-action shotgun in the attacks on Liberation and BFM.
The gunman entered the lobby of Liberation around 10 a.m. Monday and opened fire. A 23-year-old photographer, who works at the paper as a freelance assistant, was in intensive care after being shot near the heart and in the arm. Valls said he visited the photographer Wednesday and he's "doing better."
Soon after the shooting at Liberation, three shots were fired in front of the headquarters of the bank Societe Generale in the Paris suburb of La Defense. No one was hurt.
Less than an hour later, a man called police to say he had been taken hostage by a gunman in the town of Puteaux, next door to La Defense. Police said the gunman forced his hostage to drive six kilometers (3 1/2 miles) back toward central Paris, then let him go on the Champs-Elysees.
Three days before at BFM-TV, an armed man threatened journalists with a shotgun in the news network's lobby before fleeing.
He left behind unused cartridges, and told witnesses, "Next time, I won't miss," according to authorities. It was unclear whether the gunman's weapon malfunctioned or whether he chose not to shoot.
Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.