French policeman denies he threatened teenager before shooting


The French policeman accused of shooting dead a teenager has denied threatening to put a “bullet in the head” of the boy before firing shots at the victim’s rented car.

The shooting death of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk led to widespread protests in France, some of the worst France has seen in 20 years.

Since last week, more than 3,500 people have been arrested, infrastructure destroyed, police stations targeted and cars set on fire.

Investigations into the behavior of law enforcement authorities in the past week have also been launched in the meantime.

The 38-year-old traffic officer, identified only as Florian, spoke with internal police investigators shortly after the shooting.

According to the transcripts of the interview, he denied saying “you’re going to get a bullet in the head”. It can apparently be heard in a video recording of the incident how it is said.

The investigators suspect that Florian’s colleague, who was by his side at the time of the incident, may have said it, rather than Florian. The recording is currently being reviewed to determine who said it.

On Thursday, Florian appeared again in a court in Versailles where his bail application was rejected. He is currently on trial for manslaughter.

“It is as if he was hit by a tsunami. Like someone trying to come to terms with a traumatic experience,” Florian’s lawyer, Laurent-Franck Lienard, told reporters outside the court.

“He’s still in shock.”

Florian told internal police investigators that he had worked eight consecutive days before the shooting.

He explained to the investigators that he tried to pull over a yellow Mercedes that was driving in a bus lane. Nahel drove this car, which did not have a license disc.

According to the other officer who was also at the scene, the teenager refused to comply with their requests to pull over and accelerated to between 80 km/h and 100 km/h.

When they finally caught up to the car, Florian apparently pulled out his weapon.

According to Florian, half of his colleague’s body was in Nahel’s car, “probably to try to control the driver or to turn off the car”.

When Nahel’s car started moving again, Florian said he opened fire because he thought his colleague was in danger.

According to the police report, Nahel died from a bullet wound in his chest.