Twelve people were arrested after a second night of rioting in the western city of Nantes triggered by deadly shooting of a young man during a stop-and-search operation by police.
The killing of the 22-year-old, identified by local media as Aboubakar F., risks inflaming simmering tensions in deprived urban areas in France where residents frequently complain of police brutality.
Rioters set fire to several dozen cars for a second night running Wednesday and fought pitched battles with the police in the low-income district of Breil where Tuesday’s shooting took place and surrounding neighbourhoods.
Several public buildings, including a police station, were damaged and a dozen shops were torched, despite calls by the victim’s family for calm.
Eleven people were arrested in Breil and one person was arrested in the Paris suburb of Garges-les-Gonesse where Aboubakar F. grew up.
The victim was under surveillance as part of a drug-trafficking investigation when he was stopped by police while driving at around 8.30 pm.
The police said he was not carrying ID and that they attempted to arrest him.
Nantes prosecutor Pierre Sennes said that the driver then “apparently tried to escape the search by quickly reversing.”
Police sources said he reversed into one of the officers, prompting his partner to open fire — but a witness said the car was at a halt when the driver was hit in the neck by a single bullet.
A police oversight body is investigating the killing.
The driver had been wanted by police in Creteil, near Paris, for robbery and other offences.
On a visit to Nantes on Thursday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe condemned the riots and promised “the fullest transparency” about the circumstance’s of the man’s death.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said Wednesday “all the necessary resources” were being deployed to calm the situation.
– Contradictory accounts –
A woman who filmed the incident, who wished to remain anonymous, said “there were no police behind the car, he didn’t hit anyone. There was only the one gunshot.”
French police have a long history of strained relations with youths in poor suburbs with large immigration populations, while officers frequently complain about being targeted.
In January, the government vowed a crackdown on urban violence after a shocking video emerged of a policewoman being beaten by a crowd in the Paris suburbs on New Year’s Eve.
A parliamentary report released Tuesday showed high suicide rates within the police and warned about widespread low morale in the force.
In 2005, two teenagers of African origin were electrocuted while hiding from officers in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, sparking nationwide riots.
Anger over heavy-handed policing bubbled over again last year when a young black man in another Paris suburb suffered severe anal injuries during his arrest which were caused by a truncheon.
Breil, the c neighbourhood where Tuesday’s shooting occurred, is a socially mixed district home to a large housing estate with a history of gang violence.