In Paris knife attack, police ask how they missed a radical killer in their midst

PARIS (NYTIMES) – Evidence that the Paris police department missed warning signs about an employee who slashed four colleagues to death at its headquarters last Thursday (Oct 3) is prompting demands for a leadership shake-up.

At a news conference on Saturday, France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said the killer, a 45-year-old computer technician who worked in police intelligence, had tried to justify to a colleague the killings in January 2015 at the magazine Charlie Hebdo and had done the same for other radical Islamist killings.

The disturbing statements were reported to higher-ranking officers, but nothing was done.

The fact that this and other potential clues were missed by the police administration at an organisation dedicated to fighting terrorism shocked the national police.

It has also set off calls for the interior minister’s resignation.

The killer, shot to death during the rampage, was identified only as Mickael H, but French news media said he was Mickael Harpon, born in the French West Indies department of Martinique.

He was a longtime convert to Islam.

The killer also had contacts with “several individuals suspected of being part of the Salafist movement”, Mr Ricard said, referring to an ultraconservative movement within Sunni Islam.

Others said the man, deaf and frustrated that his handicap had prevented him from advancing in the police, had given off warning signs.

In 2009, he was brought before a local court on domestic violence charges but ultimately received no penalty.

The killer’s activities last Thursday, captured by surveillance cameras, unfolded calmly at first. He arrived at Police Headquarters shortly before 9am and went to his office.

Shortly after noon he left his office, bought an 8-inch kitchen knife and an oyster knife, and slipped back into the police building.

The killer slit the throat of one colleague and fatally stabbed another in the abdomen. He then went into another office, stabbing an administrative employee, and descended the stairway towards the building’s courtyard. Along the way he stabbed to death a policewoman.

Once in the courtyard he threatened another employee with his knife. Ordered to drop the weapon by a policeman, the killer first walked towards him and then started to run, pointing his knife. The officer fired.


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