A French police officer who took the place of an ISIS-aligned gunman’s hostage during a supermarket standoff in Trebes, France on Friday has died. According to the New York Times, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb announced the sad news via his official Twitter account early Saturday morning. “France will never forget his heroism, his bravery, his sacrifice,” he said of Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame, who was 44 years old. The officer “had voluntarily exchanged himself for a hostage” and was subsequently shot in the neck during an exchange of gunfire with the gunman, a Moroccan national identified as Radouane Lakdim.
In a statement following the news of Beltrame’s death, French President Emmanuel Macron said he “died in the service of the nation to which he had already contributed so much.” Macron also added that “[b]y giving his life to end the murderous escapade of a jihadist terrorist, [the officer] died a hero.” According to CNN, Beltrame left his phone on throughout his conversation with Lakdim, thereby allowing police to hear what was going on in order to plan their response. “As soon as they heard gunfire,” a spokesperson said, “police went in and killed the gunman.”
Lakdim carjacked a vehicle, shot at police officers he encountered, and ultimately arrived at a supermarket in the southwestern town of Trebes, France, where he continued shooting at people while taking hostages. Witnesses who survived the incident said that the gunman had aligned himself with the Islamic State. Whether or not the gunman was actually affiliated with ISIS isn’t clear, though the Times reports that French authorities had been monitoring his activities since 2016. Even so, Paris prosecutor François Molins said the surveillance had not found “any precursory sign that could have foretold a terrorist act.”