It was a police chase which led to the deaths of two youths in a Paris suburb last year, according to a report by France’s police watchdog. The deaths of the teenagers, who were electrocuted after taking refuge in a power sub-station in October 2005, sparked weeks of violent riots across the nation. The lawyer of the boys’ families, Jean-Pierre Mignard, welcomed the document: “Remember, a year ago, they said there was no police chase. That’s what drove the youths crazy in the suburbs. This report – which was very well conducted – says, for the first time, that there was indeed a chase, which involved at least five police teams.”
The riots in which more than 10,000 cars were set ablaze and hundreds of buildings were firebombed laid bare the tensions in France’s poor suburbs where many youths feel discriminated against because of their immigrant background. The report concludes that the officers had shown “surprising irresponsibility and carelessness”. But their lawyer
Daniel Merchat disagrees: “For the past year, people have been commenting on what happened. (…) It’s easy to say: ‘This is what they should have done’. The officers had to deal with the situation, and they did their job in a professional manner,” he said.
No one has ever been convicted in connection with the youths’ deaths. Five police officers are being questioned as so-called “assisted witnesses” but face no accusations. The boys’ families want to open a case for “deliberately endangering a person’s life”.