N.Y. mayor backs plan to increase smoke prices
PARIS — An attacker with an automatic weapon opened fire on police on Paris’ iconic ChampsElysees Thursday night, killing one officer and seriously wounding two others before police shot and killed him.
Paris police spokeswoman Johanna Primevert said that the attacker targeted officers guarding the area near the Franklin Roosevelt subway station at the centre of the shopping avenue popular with tourists. She said he appeared to be acting alone.
Police and soldiers sealed off the area, ordering tourists back into their hotels and blocking people from approaching the scene.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said counterterrorism investigators are involved in the probe. Two police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation, said the attacker had been flagged as an extremist. They had no other details about him.
The attack came three days before the first round of balloting in France’s tense presidential election. Security is high preceding the vote after police said they arrested two men Tuesday in what they described as a thwarted terror attack.
French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said on BFM TV that a man came out of a car and opened fire on a police vehicle. He said officers were “deliberately” targeted.
Emergency vehicles blocked the wide avenue lined with shops that cuts across central Paris between the Arc de Triomphe and the Tuileries Gardens, normally packed with cars and tourists. Subway stations were closed off.
The gunfire sent scores of tourists fleeing into side streets.
“They were running, running,” said 55-year-old Badi Ftaiti, who lives in the area. “Some were crying. There were tens, maybe even hundreds of them.”
Security forces are more widespread in Paris since deadly Islamic extremist attacks in recent years, and France remains under a state of emergency. The incident recalled two recent attacks on soldiers providing security at prominent locations around Paris, one at the Louvre museum in February and one at Orly airport last month.
A witness identified only as Ines told French BFM that she heard a shooting and saw a man’s body on the ground before police quickly evacuated the area where she works in a shop.
A French TV station hosting a televised event with the 11 candidates running for president briefly interrupted its broadcast to report the shootings. None of the candidates immediately commented. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing for the nation’s biggest city to also be the country’s priciest spot to buy a pack of smokes. De Blasio is backing an effort to raise the price of a pack of cigarettes from $10.50 to $13, which he says would be the highest in the U.S. The Democrat announced his support Wednesday for a series of legislative proposals designed to drastically cut tobacco use in the city by the year 2020. De Blasio says his goal is to reduce the number of smokers by 160,000. An estimated 900,000 New York City residents currently smoke. “What we’re here today talking about is saving lives,” said Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the city’s health commissioner, who appeared with the mayor at offices of the American Heart Association. “We want to make it easier to quit and harder to smoke.” The proposals are set for hearings later this month. The city council also will consider legislation to gradually reduce by half the number of licences issued to retailers to sell tobacco products. Philadelphia and San Francisco have similar licensing restrictions.
Police officers stop two men near the site of a shooting at the Champs Elysees in Paris on Thursday, after a police officer was killed and two others wounded by a gunman.