Arnaud Beltrame, a French police officer who willingly took the place of a hostage during a standoff with a rampaging gunman Friday in France, died of injuries suffered in the incident on early Saturday. His bravery earned him recognition as a hero in a country that has been shaken by a number of terrorist attacks over recent years.
Beltrame, 44, was a lieutenant colonel in the gendarmerie, a part of the French military that focuses on domestic policing. He had previously been decorated for his bravery during operations in Iraq and spent four years in the early 2000s in France’s Republican Guard, protecting the Elysee Palace in Paris.
On Saturday evening, the Elysee announced that Beltrame would receive a national honor for “giving his life to protect our fellow citizens,” according to reports in French media.
“He fell as a hero,” President Emmanuel Macron had said in a statement earlier Saturday, calling on French citizens to honor Beltrame’s memory.
“France will never forget his heroism, his bravery, his sacrifice,” French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb wrote in a tweet.
Beltrame lost his life while trying to end a standoff police had with a gunman at a supermarket.
Authorities say Radouane Lakdim, 25, hijacked a car Friday near the town of Carcassonne in Aude, killing a passenger and wounding the driver. Lakdim also shot at a group of police officers on their morning jog, wounding one of them. In the nearby town of Trèbes, the gunman then stormed into a supermarket and took hostages.
Beltrame was one of the first officers to respond, authorities said. Police negotiated with Lakdim to release the hostages, and Beltrame offered himself in place of the final one. Inside the supermarket, Beltrame tried to negotiate with Lakdim. He left his cellphone active on a table to allow authorities outside to listen in. When police heard gunshots, they stormed the building and shot Lakdim, killing the gunman.
Three other people were killed and several others were injured during Lakdim’s rampage.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Adam Taylor