Skip to main content /WORLD /WORLD

Chirac gunman 'is neo-Nazi'

Rifle man held
French police overpowered and arrested the suspected gunman  

PARIS, France -- The man who pulled out a rifle at France's Bastille Day parade just after President Jacques Chirac passed by is involved with neo-Nazi and hooligan groups, police say.

One shot was fired as the 25-year-old man was overpowered, a spokesman for the Paris police department told CNN.

It was not immediately clear whether the gun went off in the struggle or was a shot aimed at the president.

France 2 TV reported the suspect had confessed to wanting to shoot Chirac and told police he suffered from emotional problems.

French police overpower a man they say pulled out a rifle just after President Jacques Chirac passed in the Bastille Day parade in Paris. (July 14)

Play video
Gunman at Bastille day celebrations  
NYC firemen at Bastille parade 

A police spokesman told CNN: "(The suspect) is known for his involvement in neo-Nazi and hooligan movements."

As Chirac finished his tour in an open car around the Arc de Triomphe and continued down the Champs Elysees, the unidentified man took a .22 calibre rifle out of what appeared to be a guitar case.

Cries of alarm from members of the crowd lining Sunday's parade route apparently alerted police to the gunman's presence.

Police wrestled the man to the ground and then stood him up, head bowed, against a fence where he was searched before being taken away in a van.

Police said one bullet was fired during the struggle. No one was hurt.

Members of the crowd told The Associated Press that the man, who had short brown hair and looked to be in his 30s, took the gun out as Chirac was being driven down the Champs-Elysees aboard an open-topped jeep, inspecting troops.

Rifle at scene
A plain clothes policeman carries a rifle away from the scene  

The gunman was behind metal barriers set up along the parade route and never made it in front of those barriers, police said. The parade continued in central Paris without further interruption.

It was not known whether Chirac was aware of the gunman at the time. In a television interview after the parade he was not asked about the drama and he did not bring up the subject.

Police are holding the suspect at a local police station as they investigate further. They can hold him for 24 hours before making formal charges.

The man was arrested at the top of the Champs-Elysees where it empties into Place Charles de Gaulle, site of the famous Arc de Triomphe. He managed to reach the spot despite heavy security.

The military parade, a colourful pageant with troops, armoured vehicles and aircraft roaring overhead, is a highlight of celebrations marking Bastille Day.

Bastille Day is the commemoration of the storming of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789 which led to the French Revolution and the end of the monarchy in France.

- CNN Producer Eden Pontz contributed to this report


Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


Back to the top