Paris. Paris gunman served more than 12 years in jail for shooting at police. The gunman who shot dead a policeman in central Paris less than 72 hours before France’s presidential election had served more than 12 years in prison for shooting at police officers and was being investigated by intelligence services, it has emerged.
Karim Cheurfi, 39, drove up to a police van on the Champs Elysées at about 9pm on Thursday, got out and shot dead the driver with two bullets to the head, then opened fire at police on the pavement, seriously wounding two, the Paris prosecutor, François Molins, said on Friday.
He was shot dead by police while trying to flee on foot after the attack, which was claimed unusually quickly by the Islamic State propaganda agency Amaq. It said the attacker was “one of Islamic State’s fighters”.
A note defending Isis was found near his body, Molins said. The police officer killed was named as Xavier Jugelé, who joined the Paris police force in 2010 from the gendarmerie.
Authorities had long feared bloodshed in the run-up to polling day, and observers speculated that the attack could bring the issues of security and radical Islam to the forefront of voters’ concerns as they prepare to vote in Sunday’s first round.
Molins said Cheurfi, who was born in 1977 in Livry-Gargan, a suburb north-east of Paris, had been jailed four times between 2001 and 2014 for attempted murder, violence and robbery.
He was last arrested in February after reports he had been talking about assaulting police. Knives and masks were found at his home but were not considered sufficient evidence to detain him further and he was released, Molins said.
“At that stage, no link with the radical Islamist movement was apparent,” the Paris prosecutor said. “Nothing justified further investigations by my office.”
He said a pump-action shotgun and knives had been found in the vehicle used in the Champs-Elysées attack and police were investigating how the attacker obtained his Kalashnikov.
Cheurfi had previously been convicted of three attempted murders – two against police officers – after an incident in 2001. He shot at one policeman and a civilian after a car chase and while in custody, grabbed another officer’s gun and fired at him.
Sentenced to 20 years, he won a 2005 appeal and left prison in 2013. In July 2014, he was sentenced to four years for violent robbery but was released the following year.