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Officer killed in police station

Jospin (left) and Chirac (right) both support plans for a new government office on crime
Jospin (left) and Chirac (right) both support plans for a new government office on crime  

PARIS, France -- A gunman has been arrested after he burst into a police station in western France and shot dead a police officer.

Armed with a Kalashnikov and apparently drunk, the man is reported to have been chasing a group of youths who had taken refugee in the Vannes police station.

The gunman, a 48-year-old horse breeder said to have a record of violence, was arrested after the shooting, Reuters news agency reported.

The unnamed man earlier drove a vehicle through a red light in the coastal town before colliding with a car carrying a group of youths, police said on Tuesday.

The youths gave chase by car and caught up with the attacker, who pulled a gun on them.

They fled to the police station, pursued by the gunman who sprayed the front desk area with bullets, killing the 37-year-old policeman before being overpowered by another.

The officer, who was shot in the shoulder during the struggle, is recovering under guard in a nearby hospital.

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has promised tougher gun laws following the attack and told RMC radio: "I am totally ready for this legislation to be tougher and harder still."

"This is appalling. It seems this man was loaded up with drink," the prime minister said.

Conservative President Jacques Chirac -- running against Jospin in this month's election for the French presidency where crime has been a dominant issue -- also expressed his horror.

He paid tribute to the dead officer, Regis Ryckebusch, "who died after saving the life of three people who sought refuge in the police station," the Associated Press reported.

CNN correspondent Jim Bittermann says crime in France is growing with startling speed and the overall crime rate has jumped 8 percent last year after a 5 percent increase the year before.

Both Jospin and his principal opponent, incumbent Jacques Chirac, share the same plan to untangle confused police and court bureaucracies with a new government office to deal exclusively with crime.

French law, tightened twice in the 1990s, requires gun licence candidates to submit medical records and undergo police checks.

Last month a lone gunman, Richard Durn, opened fire at a town hall in western Paris, killing eight people and injuring 19 -- then leapt to his death from a Paris police headquarters.

Durn held a licence despite a record of psychological problems.


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