Written by Staff Writer
22 Apr, 2017 | 6:13 am
The gunman killed after shooting dead a policeman on the Champs Elysees has been named by the Paris prosecutor as Karim Cheurfi, a convicted criminal.
He used a Kalashnikov assault rifle to kill the police officer with two bullets to the head, François Molins told journalists in the French capital.
A note defending so-called Islamic State was found near his body.
Candidates in Sunday’s presidential election have been accused of exploiting the attack politically.
Cheurfi had four criminal convictions, the prosecutor said.
Friday is the last day of campaigning before Sunday’s presidential election.
The killer had spoken about wanting to kill police officers but had had no apparent link to Islamist radicalism, Molins said.
Hunting knives, masks and a GoPro camera were found but this was not considered sufficient proof of his murderous intent.
“At that stage, no link with the radical Islamist movement was apparent,” the Paris prosecutor said. “Nothing justified further investigations by my office.”
Born on New Year’s Eve in 1977 in the Livry-Gargan suburb of north-eastern Paris, Cheurfi was jailed four times for attempted murder, violence and theft.
In April 2001, while driving a stolen car, he fired on and wounded two men who had chased him, one of them a plain clothes police officer.
He last emerged from prison in October 2015 and was living in the eastern suburb of Chelles.
His lawyer described him as psychologically fragile and neighbours in Chelles said he had never shown any interest in religion.
Three members of the gunman’s family have been arrested for questioning.
Driving an Audi, the gunman arrived in the Champs Elysees area at 20:47 (18:47 GMT) on Thursday and drove up to a police bus parked on the avenue, Molins said.
Getting out, he opened fire at the driver’s window, killing a police officer inside. The officer has been named as Xavier Jugelé.
He then went around the bus and fired on two police officers posted outside a Turkish tourist office. It was announced earlier that two officers had been injured.
Security forces later shot Cheurfi dead.
Terrified eyewitnesses later recounted scenes of panic as they ran for cover.
French investigators are trying to find out whether he had accomplices.
IS announced soon after the attack that one of its “fighters” had carried out the attack but it named him as “Abu Yousif al-Belgiki [the Belgian]”.
“We don’t understand why Islamic State has identified the wrong person,” a police source was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying. “What does seem clear is that Islamic State was planning something.”
Police officer Xavier Jugelé, 37, was an active campaigner for gay rights, French media report.
Originally from the Loire Valley region in central France, he had been serving in the capital since 2014, French daily Liberation writes (in French).
On 13 November 2015, he was deployed to secure the area around the Bataclan concert hall after the IS attack, Le Parisien writes (in French).
When the venue reopened last November with a concert by Sting, Mr Jugelé was there again, telling the US’s People magazine: “I’m happy to be here… We’re here tonight as witnesses. Here to defend our civic values. This concert’s to celebrate life. To say no to terrorists.”
Leading candidates on the right were accused by Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve of cynically exploiting the attack in the final hours of the campaign (which ends at midnight local time on Friday).
The far right’s Marine Le Pen pledged to expel radical Islamists while the centre-right’s François Fillon talked of fighting “Islamist totalitarianism”.
Both also attacked the record of the Socialist government in handling law and order.
In Washington, US President Donald Trump, whose election win stunned much of the world last year, predicted in a tweet that the attack would “have a big effect on [the] presidential election”.
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