Nahel Merzouk was a 17-year-old French delivery driver and rugby player who was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in Nanterre.
The shooting death ignited nights of riots across France that led to more than 200 police officers being injured as well as the torching of buildings, buses and cars, and looting of shops, according to Reuters.
The shooting of Nahel Merzouk was captured in a viral video, and it’s led to homicide charges against the police officer who took his life, BBC reported. Authorities have not released Nahel’s last name, which is common practice in France. They also have not released the name of the officer.
Sky News reported that his last name is Merzouk.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Viral Video Captured the Moment the Police Officer Fired at Nahel Merzouk
According to France24, police initially said that Nahel was shot when he drove toward an officer, but the video contradicted that version of events, although it does appear to show the car making contact with the officer’s arm as Nahel tried to leave the scene in a yellow car.
In the France shooting video, Merzouk’s yellow Mercedes is seen stopped on the roadway. Two French police officers are standing at the driver’s side window, one with his gun drawn. According to France24, a voice says, “You are going to get a bullet in the head.”
As Nahel Merzouk leaves the scene, his car makes contact with the officer’s elbow, and he fires.
“What I see in this video is a 17-year-old kid being executed, in France in 2023, by a police officer on a public highway,” said the Greens’ Marine Tondelier to France24. “It seems like we are heading towards an Americanisation of the police.”
2. Nahel Merzouk Was a Delivery Driver & Rugby Player Who Was Raised by a Single Mother
According to BBC, Nahel M. was a delivery driver who played Rugby and was raised by a single mother in the French suburb of Nanterre.
Nahel Merzouk was of Algerian and Moroccan descent, according to Reuters.
“You have a kind of immediate feeling among the public that this is symptomatic of more global trends in terms of police violence,” said Jacques de Maillard, a political science professor, to Vox.
France Info reported that Nahel “was an only child” who was working as a delivery driver. He had previously faced discipline for behavioral problems in school, but entered a “professional integration program” through the sport of rugby, France Info reported.
“We gave him small responsibilities and he always fulfilled them. He had real potential,” Jeff Puech, president of the Ovale Citoyen association, told France Info. “He was a kid who wanted to get out of it.”
Puech told Le Parisien that Nahel M. was a “kid who used rugby to get by.”
“He was someone who had the will to fit in socially and professionally, not a kid who lived off the deal or took pleasure in petty crime,” Puech told the French-language site.
3. French Police Stopped Nahel Merzouk For ‘Traffic Violations’
According to France24, Nahel M. was shot after being stopped for “traffic violations,” although the site did not share what they were.
According to BBC, Nahel M. was studying to be an electrician at a local college, never knew his father, lived with his mother, was well-liked in town and his education “was described as chaotic.”
“What am I going to do now?” his mother told BBC. “I devoted everything to him,” she said. “I’ve only got one, I haven’t got 10 [children]. He was my life, my best friend.”
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted about the subsequent rioting, “A third of those arrested last night are young people, sometimes very young. I call parents to responsibility.”
4. Nahel Merzouk’s Mother Mounia Says She Believes the Officer Saw ‘an Arab Face’
Nahel’s mother, Mounia, has spoken to the French news media.
She told the France 5 channel, according to CBS News: “I don’t blame the police. I blame one person: the one who took the life of my son.”
She accused the officer of having seen “an Arab face, a little kid, and wanted to take his life.” The officer is 38 years old, CBS News reported.
5. An Ambulance Driver Yelled at Police, Saying Nahel Merzouk Was ‘Never Violent’
An ambulance driver named Marouane “launched a tirade against a police officer, explaining later that he knew the boy as if he was his little brother,” BBC reported.
Marouane told BBC: “He never lifted raised a hand to anyone and he was never violent.”
DIEM 25 tweeted that the ambulance driver was arrested.