On Thursday, a man described as a 20-year veteran of the police force who had security clearance went berserk in police headquarters next to Notre Dame Cathedral, murdering four police officers with a ceramic knife before he was shot and killed by another police officer. According to Actu17, two of the dead victims were female police officers.
The motive for the attack is still unclear, but officials suspect it was the result of a workplace dispute.
Le Parisien reported that the Ministry of the Interior stated the 45-year-old assailant was a Category C official who had “never presented any behavioral difficulties.” Le Parisien added that the assailant attacked three police officers in two offices on the first floor, then climbed the stairs to the second floor, where he attacked two women with the knife. He then fled to the courtyard, where a policeman ordered him to stop; when he would not, the policeman shot him in the head.
The last time the Paris police force lost so many lives on one day was during World War II.
One police employee who works as an interpreter said, “People were running everywhere, there was crying everywhere. I heard a shot, I gathered it was inside. Moments later, I saw police officers crying. They were in a panic,” as The Daily Mail reported.
The Straits-Times noted, “The attack at the police headquarters also came as tension grows within the ranks of the police force, who have been stretched to the limit by policing the ‘yellow vest’ protests against President Emmanuel Macron and have themselves been accused of heavy-handed tactics.”
The New York Times reported on Wednesday:
Thousands of police officers demonstrated in Paris Wednesday in frustration over what they said were bad working conditions, a lack of public respect and a wave of suicides in their ranks this year. Police unions said that about 27,000 people marched in the heart of Paris, from the Place de la Bastille to the Place de la République, the biggest such police demonstration in nearly 20 years. The large numbers of police officers in civilian clothes — they are forbidden by law to demonstrate in uniform — were a kind of response to the mass demonstrations of “Yellow Vest” protesters earlier in the year.
The Yellow Vest protests started in October 2018 as a response to rising fuel prices. The Yellow vests were chosen as a symbol since they were ubiquitous; all French motorists were required in 2008 to keep a high-visibility garment in their vehicles just in case a problem arose and they needed to be seen.
The New York Times also noted that in 2019 alone, 50 members of the national police have committed suicide. One 32-year-veteran of the French riot police said many police officers are exhausted from the constant travel entailed in responding to the Yellow Vest protests, saying, “I don’t even get to see my kids anymore. There’s a total fed-upness with this. We’re sick of being singled out.” Speaking of officers he knew who had committed suicide, he concluded, “Some of us just crack.”