A police officer who was shot after he exchanged himself for at least one hostage who was being held by a gunman in a French supermarket has been hailed as a hero after dying from his injuries.
France’s interior minister, Gérrard Collomb, confirmed on Twitter early Saturday morning that lieutenant-colonel Arnaud Beltrame, 45, had died.
Image shows the location where Arnaud Beltrame sacrificed his life
“France will never forget his bravery, his sacrifice, his heroism,” he said.
Three other people died on Friday while 15 were injured and at least one critically – after the gunman, named as 25-year-old Redouanne Lakdim, began an assault on a supermarket in in Trèbes, near the historic town of Carcassonne.
Lakdim was shot dead by police at the scene.
Arnaud Beltrame arrived at the supermarket to find Lakdim holding several people hostage – the gunman agreed to release hostages in return for taking him in her place.
On Twitter, the Gendarmerie Nationale saluted Beltrame’s “sense of sacrifice and the exemplary nature of this officer who gave his life for the freedom of the hostages.”
It was reported that Beltrame was among the first officers to respond to the incident and that after agreeing to the hostage swap he left his mobile phone open so that officers outside would be able to hear what was happening inside the supermarket.
#DGGN C'est avec une très vive émotion que je souhaite rendre solennellement hommage à l'héroïsme de notre camarade A.Beltrame décédé cette nuit. Je m'incline devant le courage, le sens du sacrifice et l'exemplarité de cet officier qui a donné sa vie pour la liberté des otages. pic.twitter.com/GnzmXWuFOX
— Gendarmerie nationale (@Gendarmerie) March 24, 2018
On Friday – before his death had been confirmed – Beltrame’s mother told RTL radio: “I’m not surprised. I knew it had to be him. He has always been like that. It’s someone, since he was born, who gives everything for his homeland.”
French president Emmanuel Macron said Beltrame showed “exceptional courage” and “fell as a hero”.
Macron referred to the incident as a act of “Islamist terrorism” and said an investigation would now focus on how the Moroccan-born Lakdim was able to get hold of a weapon and became radicalized.