A 69-year-old man suspected of murdering three people in an armed attack against a Kurdish cultural centre in Paris on Friday has been taken to a police psychiatric unit, Agence-France Press reported.
William M., a retired train conductor, was arrested after being disarmed by customers and staff at a hair salon he entered following the deadly shooting, and was taken straight to hospital for treatment for some facial injuries. The gunman was later taken into police detention, where he reportedly told the police that he hated Kurds and admitted that he was a racist.
“The doctor who examined the suspect in the late afternoon today said that the state of health of the person concerned was not compatible with the measure of custody,” AFP quoted the Paris prosecutor as saying. “The custody measure has therefore been lifted pending his presentation before an investigating judge when his state of health allows,” the prosecutor added.
William M., who was allegedly found with a box of at least 25 cartridges and “two or three loaded magazines” according to police sources, is suspected of murder, attempted murder, armed violence and violating weapons legislation.
The statements of the French authorities so far indicate that police and prosecutors are treating the incident largely as the act of a crazed far-right extremist with a previous history of attacks against immigrants, though there is no past evidence that he particularly targeted Kurds.
The suspect was convicted of armed violence in 2016 and a year later was given a suspended sentence of six months in prison for illegally possessing firearms, AFP reported citing judicial sources.
William M. reportedly slashed the tents of Sudanese immigrants with a sword in 2021, wounding two people. He was arrested once again and released on bail on 12 December pending trial.
The French M6 TV channel interviewed the gunman’s parents, who are 91 and 93 years old. “He is crazy, he’s an idiot,” said his father during the interview. “He is a taciturn person who doesn’t live like normal people do.” William M.’s neighbours also described him as “strange”.
However, the Kurdish community in France seem unsatisfied with the French authorities’ statements about the attack and the shooter, expecting the incident to be treated as a terrorist act.
For many Kurds, the attack on Friday has revived the trauma of a 2013 incident, when three women, including one of the founders of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), were killed by a Turkish assassin at a Kurdish information centre in Paris.
The shooter in that attack, Ömer Güney, allegedly had links to Turkish intelligence, however, his contacts could not be revealed in court because Güney died in prison just one month before the start of his trial.
The Kurdish groups believe that Turkey also played a role in Friday’s attack.
“They try to make us believe that it’s about a simple far right activist that just left prison on 12 December and committed this horrible attack on our offices of the Kurdish Democratic Council of France, which is bringing dozens of Kurdish associations together,” said Agit Polat, the spokesperson of the council that uses the Ahmet Kaya Cultural Centre as its headquarters. “We appeal once again to the French authorities: Stop the collaboration with the Turkish intelligence services,” he said on Friday.
According to Kurdish groups, the centre was to host a planning meeting for demonstrations to be organised on 9 January, on the tenth anniversary of the 2013 assassinations. However the meeting was later postponed for two hours, possibly reducing the death toll of Friday’s attack.