Three days before France’s anticipated presidential election officially started, three police officers and a tourist were shot by a gunman on Paris’ Champs-Elyees Boulevard on April 20, 2017.
Around 9 P.M. Paris time, 39-year-old French citizen Karim Cheurfi fired four to six shots as he walked up toward a police van parked in Champs-Elysees, instantly killing one officer. As more authorities began to arrive at the scene, Cheurfi tried to escape on foot from police fire. During the chase, Cheurfi fired and wounded two more police officers and a female tourist before he was shot dead by policemen.
Freshman Jacqueline Velasquez said, “It broke my heart to hear that once again Paris was attacked. I hope Paris will soon recover from their loss.”
Cheurfi was well known to French officers before the Champs-Elyees shooting. In February 2017, he claimed that he would assault policemen and was soon arrested. Cheurfi’s house was searched, but due to the lack of evidence that such an attack would happen, he was released from custody.
The night of the shooting, authorities closed down the populated Champs-Elyees in order to prevent more tourists and citizens from interfering or putting themselves at risk. As officers searched the area for more evidence that linked Cheurfi to the shooting, they found the old Audi car that he arrived in. Inside of Cheurfi’s car, officers discovered multiple knives and a pump-action gun that was different from the Kalashnikov rifle he used during the shooting.
Near Cheurfi’s dead body, police also found a handwritten note praising and defending the Islamic radical group known as ISIS. President Francois Hollande described the Champs-Elyees shooting as “terroristic in nature.” Hours after the attack, ISIS claimed responsibility for the shooting.
ISIS admitted that the attacker was “one of their fighters” and that he was named Abu Yousif al-Belgiki, or “the Belgian.” This statement confused French authorities because ISIS identified the wrong person, since Cheurfi is French and not Belgian. Other officials believe that Cheurfi had an accomplice who was, in fact, Belgian.
Belgian Youssouf el Osri, who is described as being “dangerous,” was considered as Cheurfi’s accomplice during the shooting. Belgian officials discovered that el Osri planned to go to Paris and immediately notified French authorities. Before el Osri was detained by French officials, he gave himself up to Belgian police in order to prove his innocence. The police were not able to find evidence that linked el Osri to the Champs-Elyees shooting, and they proved that he was in Belgium when the shooting took place.
French authorities continued to search for any leads and suspects who might have also played a role in the Champs-Elyees shooting. For now, no further arrests have been made.
The first round of the 2017 presidential election that took place on April 23 was impacted by the Champs-Elyees shooting. Authorities ordered more than 50,000 police and an additional 7,000 soldiers to protect the 60,000 polling stations that opened as French voters cast their votes. While citizens voted for their chosen candidates, many realized that the Champs-Elyees shooting would prevent France from ending the “state of emergency” order that was placed over the country after a terrorist attack in 2015.
Freshman Luke Lattanzi said, “It is horrible that French citizens have to worry about whether they will be attacked in their polling stations.”
Constant terror attacks toward France has been the topic of presidential debates. Most of the candidates have argued endlessly on what the French government should do to stop ISIS from committing more crimes. A day after the Champs-Elyees shooting occurred, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and conservative Francois Fillon cancelled their campaigning events that were scheduled for Friday.
Le Pen, known for her controversial opinion on Islamic terrorism and immigration in France, promised that she would expel all French terror suspects after the Champs-Elyees shooting. On April 23, Le Pen had the second highest score in the polls with a 21.43 percent, while rival Emmanuel Macron had 23.86 percent. Le Pen’s popularity grew among the French citizens who are tired of losing family members due to terror attacks.
Future polls are now going to be unpredictable as presidential candidates use the recent shooting to promote their anti-terrorism methods in the fight against ISIS. Le Pen made it clear that if she were to be elected president, she would not let a “terror suspect” like Cheurfi harm French citizens again.
What type of security measures should French officials make to improve their country’s safety?