A preliminary investigation has been opened after a selfie was published showing French President Emmanuel Macron’s former security aide Alexandre Benalla holding a gun, Patrick Mairé, the prosecutor in the city of Poitiers, told CNN.
The probe comes as Benalla faces an investigation over a video of him wearing a police helmet and beating protesters during May Day protests. The video, which surfaced in July, led to the aide’s immediate dismissal.
Benalla has since said in many interviews that his actions on May Day were strong but not violent. He was simply trying to help the police.
The new photo was published on Monday by French investigative website Mediapart showing Benalla posing with a gun for a selfie in a restaurant in Poitiers in April 2017 during the presidential election campaign.
The photograph shows him holding a gun with two men by his side and a waitress. The waitress, who later identified herself in a video posted on Mediapart as Laura and the restaurant as Archives, told the website that Macron, then a presidential candidate, was present when the photo was taken.
“After taking the selfie with Alexandre Benalla, Emmanuel Macron was roughly five feet away from me, and I also asked him if I could take a selfie with him and he accepted,” the waitress told Mediapart.
The Elysee Palace, the President’s official office, declined a request from CNN to comment.
Mairé said the Poitiers prosecutor’s investigation will seek to determine if Benalla was allowed to carry a weapon in the city at that time.
Paris police chief Michel Delpuech told journalists that during the presidential campaign a firearms permit was sent to the security guard to protect the headquarters of Macron’s La République En Marche party in Paris, although he did not personally oversee it.
Benalla told French newspaper Le Monde in July that he never left the party headquarters with his weapon. “We’re not crazy, there’s a risk for the candidate’s reputation,” he said.
Last week, Benalla told the Senate investigative committee he was head of security logistics during the election campaign, but had never been Macron’s bodyguard. “I regret to tell you that during the presidential campaign I was not Emmanuel Macron’s bodyguard.”
On Wednesday, lawyer Laurent-Franck Liénard announced on his Facebook page that he was quitting Benalla’s defense and wished him “courage going forward.”
He did not say why he was leaving.
Lawyers Jacqueline Laffont and Pierre Haik confirmed to CNN Thursday that they are now representing Benalla but had no comment regarding the gun selfie.