French police officer Lieutenant colonel Arnaud Beltrame died helping end a gunman’s shooting spree by swapping himself for a hostage during the tense supermarket siege in Trèb, in the South of France yesterday (March 23). He was the fourth victim in the terror attack.
Beltrame, 45, was described as a “hero” who showed “exceptional courage” by French president Emmanuel Macron. After the siege ended, interior Minister Gérard Collomb tweeted: “He died for his country. France will never forget his heroism, his bravery, his sacrifice.” France’s Gendarmerie Nationale, a police force part of the military, said Beltrame “gave his life for the freedom of the hostages.”
At least 16 people were injured in what Macron called an act of “Islamist terrorism.” Authorities identified 25-year-old Redouane Lakdim as the gunman behind the attack. He was shot dead by police.
Lakdim was reportedly demanding the release of Salah Abdeslam, a surviving suspect of the 2015 Paris attack, which killed 130 people and injured hundreds more. Police have so far arrested one person, thought to be Lakdim’s partner, in connection with the shootings. Lakdim, a French citizen who was born in Morocco, was already known to French intelligence services. He had been on an extremist watch-list due to “his radicalization and his links with the Salafist movement [a hardline strand of Sunni Islam],” according to French prosecutor Francois Molins. After investigating him, authorities didn’t find any signs he would act on his beliefs.
According to witnesses, Lakdim stormed into the Super-U supermarket in the small town of Trèb, shouting, “I am a soldier of Daesh [ISIL]!” He killed a customer and a store worker and took others as hostages. Police officers managed to get some hostages out of the supermarket, but Lakdim held one woman back as a human shield. It was then that Beltrame offered to swap himself for her. When police heard gunshots, however, a tactical team stormed the supermarket. The gunman was killed, but Beltrame was badly injured. He later died from his injuries. Flags are flying half-mast in France today.