BAC shooting in Stains : 3D reconstruction belies police version
One night in August 2021, two agents from a French Anti-Crime Squad fired eight times at a vehicle. The two occupants of the car were seriously injured. Since then, the driver has been prosecuted for “refusing to comply” and for “aggravated violence” against the police officers who shot him and his companion. INDEX investigated and reconstructed the facts.
Date of incident
Stains (93), France
August 16, 2021 in Stains, Seine-Saint-Denis, in the outskirts of Paris. It is 1:32 a.m. on Boulevard Maxime Gorki when a man in his vehicle films a scene of rare violence.
The resulting video is less than a minute long. It shows two men, in plain clothes, firing eight shots at a vehicle that is apparently trying to get away from them. The vehicle stops abruptly after the fifth shot.
Once his weapon has been stowed, one of the two shooters opens the door of the vehicle. We see the driver – Nordine A., 37 – lying on the front seats. His body is riddled with bullets. He was hit in the posterior chest, shoulder, pubis, right thigh and forearm. On his left side, a projectile ended its course under his collarbone, another at the level of his trapezius, a third in the top of his thigh. He has multiple fractures and significant internal bleeding.
A passenger was in the back. Merryl B., 39, was shot in the middle of the back. She has a fractured spleen, perforated lung lobe and multiple bleeding inside the chest. The projectile lodged in her left breast.
The two men who fired are police officers from the Stains Anti-Crime Squad (‘Brigade Anti Criminalité’, BAC): Jonathan F. and Valentin L. A third officer, Régis L., a police captain, took part in the intervention without using his weapon.
In the hours that followed, the two injured persons are taken care of by emergency services in state of absolute urgency. Their vital prognosis is engaged. After several medical operations, Nordine A. and Merryl B. survive their injuries. But they retain significant sequelae, some of which are permanent.
A few hours after the events, the video of the witness to the scene is shared on Twitter by the account “L’Écho des Banlieues”. The tweet was deleted is same day, misleadingly announcing the death of the driver, but the video has already made the rounds on social networks.
A communication battle then begins around this case, in which the Paris police headquarters intervenes. Through her Twitter account, which has more than 500,000 subscribers, the Préfecture‘s spokesperson delivers the official version, facing the camera. This announces a «refusal to comply», a police officer «hit», another «dragged on several meters» by the vehicle. Following which, «the two police officers used their administrative weapon». In the days that follow, this version of the facts is widely relayed in the media.Two months later, a complaint with a civil action is filed against the Paris police headquarters for «dissemination of false news».
What exactly happened on the night of the events in Stains? Did the driver of the vehicle actually commit an offense of refusing to comply? Did the police use their weapons in self-defence? In this video investigation, INDEX reveals a detailed reconstruction of the incident, which belies the police version.
What the 3D reconstruction allows to conclude
To carry out this investigation, INDEX used the video of the witness to produce a detailed 3D modelling of the scene. This precisely situates each of the protagonists during the sequence which culminates in the shots being fired at Nordine A.’s vehicle. By cross-referencing the data obtained via the 3d model with the information contained in the judicial file – which INDEX has examined – it is possible to establish that:
The police control at the origin of the incident is irregular, the agents of the BAC not wearing any visible external insignia which would attest to their quality of police officers. Therefore, when maneuvering to escape individuals who are trying to immobilize it, the driver of the vehicle does not commit the offense of «refusal to comply» as defined in Article L233-1 of the French Code de la route.
There is no legal basis to justify the shootings carried out by officers Jonathan F. and Valentin L. Apart from the fact that they were not wearing their badges when they fired their weapons – a condition stipulated by article L435-1 of the internal security code – the 3D reconstruction of the incident belies the reasons given by the police to justify each of the shots they fire.
Officer Valentin L. puts himself in danger by getting on Nordine A’s vehicle and perching on the door, with his legs in the passenger compartment and his upper body outside the vehicle. It was only after performing this confusing and perilous gesture that he was dragged several meters by Nordine A’s vehicle in reverse: a sequence which only caused him minor injuries to his legs.
None of the three officers were hit by the vehicle.
On eight occasions, when they fired, neither the shooters nor the third officer were in the path of Nordine A’s vehicle.
The last three shots by the police in the direction of the driver were made while the vehicle was stationary, and the driver was lying on the front seats of the vehicle.
The legal treatment of the case
More than a year after the events, the complaint the victims filed as a civil party against the BAC agents who shot them is still in the investigation phase.
At the same time, the legal proceedings brought against Nordine A. – for refusing to comply, aggravated violence, endangering the lives of others, and driving under the influence of an alcoholic state – were processed much faster.
A month after the events, on September 17, 2021, Nordine A. was brought for immediate appearance at the Court of Bobigny and placed under judicial control. Initially set for November 19, 2021, his trial took place on February 18, 2022. At the end of the trial, Nordine A. was sentenced to the maximum penalty provided by law for a refusal to comply: two years in prison, as well as 15,000 euros in damages to be paid to the police officers who shot him and his companion. When he left the hearing, he was immediately jailed.
Through his lawyer, Nordine A. appealed. He was released on April 11, 2022 due to his medical condition. During his appeal hearing on June 7, 2022, his judgment was finally postponed until October 11.
If his conviction is confirmed on appeal, Nordine A. may be imprisoned again to serve the remainder of his sentence.
So far, French justice has assigned the role of the aggressor to Nordine A. and that of the victim to the police. However, the case is not over. On September 8, 2022, the investigating judge in charge of the proceedings in which Nordine A. and Merryl B. are civil parties finally decided to indict police officer Jonathan F., for «willful violence with a weapon committed by a person holding public authority».
A worrying context
In 2017, the modification of article L435-1 of the internal security code relaxed the conditions for the use of weapons by the police, authorizing them, under certain restrictions, to shoot at vehicles «likely to harm, in their flight, their own lives or their physical integrity or those of others».
Since then, the number of shootings carried out by police officers against moving vehicles has risen sharply. According to figures from the IGPN, the internal police institution charge with investigating its officers misbehaviour, the shootings went up by + 47% in 2017 compared to 2016; and +39% over a 5-year average (2017-2021) compared to the previous five years (2012-2016).
Since the beginning of 2022, nine people have been killed by police shooting at vehicles they were trying to immobilize. In 2021, the death toll was of four people in similar circumstances. In 2020, police shootings at moving vehicles have killed one person.
As a complement to our investigation, we publish a report in PDF format which provides further details on our conclusions and the methodology that we used.