PARIS: French investigators have questioned four police officers during the January arrest of a Paris delivery driver who died after they allegedly pinned him to the ground as he shouted repeatedly “I’m suffocating”, sources said Monday.
France has seen protests in recent weeks against the alleged brutality and racism of the police, the controversy that has gained resonance since the protests erupted in the united states on the murder by the police of George Floyd.
Cedric Chouviat, 42 years old, had been arrested by the police near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, on 3 January for a control of the movement, which has degenerated.
In a video collected by the investigators, he can say “I’m suffocating” seven times in 22 seconds that the police hold him down, according to a report on the incident written in April, revealed Wednesday by The newspaper Le Monde and the website Mediapart, which AFP has seen.
Video footage appears to show Chouviat with the weight of the font on his chest. According to two witnesses, the driver was held in a chokehold.
“Apart from the arrest, we have not noticed any blatantly violent words or noises,” said one expert, who has analyzed the images of the incident.
“The exchange is relatively civil, even if we can see a form of “provocation” or “contempt” in (Chouviat word,” the expert added.
According to the analysis of the sequence, Chouviat called the police “clowns and one of them a “loser” and told them several times not to touch it.
“At 11 minutes 16 seconds (Chouviat) told the police officer that he is a ‘crazy’. The agent decides to stop it,” said the expert.
“In the next 22 seconds you can hear the different sounds that we cannot identify. The arrested person repeatedly said “I am sweltering’. And you can hear a police say “All good, all good, the cuffs on’.”
Chouviat the middle echoes Floyd’s last words “I can’t breathe”, which brought together protesters around the world.
The father of five Chouviat died in hospital two days after the arrest of asphyxia, with “a fracture of the larynx,” according to the elements of the autopsy published by Paris prosecutors.
Prosecutors have opened a case for “involuntary manslaughter”.
“Dangerous,” the restraint techniques
None of the police officers involved have been suspended, and their lawyer, Thibault de Montbrial declined to comment.
The guard dog of the police in charge of the investigation submitted its findings to the co-investigating judges who will now decide whether the four officers will be charged.
Chouviat of the family condemned what they called an act of unjustified police violence caused by this they are said to be “dangerous” restraint techniques.
His death came after that, in 2016, of a young black man, Adama Traore, after he was pinned to the ground, the body weight of the three officers, according to the testimony of one of them.
In the wake of recent protests against alleged police brutality that young black and Arab men say is often directed at them, the French government this month announced a ban on the chokehold technique, which critics say is too often fatal.
But a few days later, the government backtracked after a backlash by the police unions, who have demonstrated across France, throwing their handcuffs on the ground in protest.
In the days following Chouviat the death of the Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner has promised sanctions against the police officers “if mistakes are established”.