Paris Police Shoot at Fleeing Car Near Tour de France Finish Line
Photo via Twitter/letour
Bullets flew through the air in an iconic area of central Paris Sunday morning as police pursued a vehicle mere hours before tens of thousands of spectators arrived to witness cyclists finish the Tour de France, the Associated Press reported. The passengers abandoned the vehicle and are still at large.
A ranking official who asked not to be identified told the AP the car was first seen on a street that leads to Champs-Elysees, the famous avenue where crowds would soon gather to watch the last laps of the world’s biggest cycling race. The vehicle stayed on the outskirts of the area, and then struck a taxi at the Place de la Concorde, one of Paris’ major public squares, near the start of the Tuileries Gardens, the official said.
Luc Poignant, spokesman for the SGP police union, told the BFM television network via the AP that officers were finishing setting up the barricades for the race when the car tried to crash through the barriers. Officers opened fire on the car, which ended up driving away. No officers were injured, he added.
The AP noted how “extremely rare” it is to hear gunfire in this area, as “Place de la Concorde [is] a luxury tourist haunt across the Seine River from the National Assembly, the lower chamber of the French Parliament.”
The ranking official told the AP that the abandoned vehicle, complete with bullet holes, was found close to where shooting began, near Place de la Concorde. This official also said a witness at a hotel saw the car’s occupants — two men and two women — seek a glass of water for one of the women, who had an upper body injury. It was not clear if this was a bullet wound.
Initial findings by authorities haven’t uncovered anything nefarious, and all signs point to epically-bad finale to a night out.
A police official who did not wish to be identified told the AP the investigation is "moving completely away from any terrorist lead or voluntary action against police."
Officials said to the AP that they think the car’s occupants had been visiting a nightclub in the high-class neighborhood and were either intoxicated or high on illegal substances, and didn't want police to find out.
"The scenario is becoming clearer. The party ended badly," the ranking official said.
Tour de France officials told the AP the incident would have no effect on the race. The final stages began at 4:35 p.m. local time from Sevres, a town southwest of Paris. Arriving in the city, cyclists do 10 laps around the Champs-Elysees before finishing at Place de la Concorde.
Heavy police presence was noted by the Telegraph even after crowds showed up, but the finale of the race proceeded without a hitch, despite rain. British cyclist Chris Froome triumphed, winning his second Tour de France.
The AP noted Paris “has been on edge” since two terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in January, and mentioned the thousands of police and soldiers deployed in the city after the attack to guard sensitive sites and tourist attractions.
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