CHARLIE HEBDO – THE SHOOTING OF A POLICEMAN Questions relating to the Video of the alleged shooting of Ahmed Merabet. Tim Veater.
Much doubt has been thrown by internet commentators, on the reliability of the video footage purporting to show the initial injury and subsequent fatal shooting of a policeman – later named as Muslim officer Ahmed Merabet – on the pavement opposite 62 Boulevard Richard Lenoir, 75011 in the Paris Republic district / St. Ambrose. A brief description of the property can be viewed here: http://www.meilleursagents.com/prix-immobilier/paris-75000/boulevard-richard-lenoir-442/62/ . The Google Earth street view can be seen here: lat 48°51’36.20″N lon 2°22’20.59″E . This can be compared with the video still available on You Tube, though many have deleted the actual moment of the alleged fatal shot. An uncensored or manipulated (?) version of both events can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2KYlE6RD6w&bpctr=1421173946
Virtually all mainstream media outlets have accepted the veracity of the video as a true and accurate depiction of events, not contradicted by the French government and police, namely that the two Kouachi brothers (?) stop their car and engage a policeman that they happen to see, as they make their way north, up Boulevard Richard Lenoir.
Why they would stop and do so whilst making their escape is difficult to fathom. The policeman on foot is hardly likely to have posed a significant risk. Delay might have been considered a bigger concern. We must assume in that location, the policeman was not even a witness to the shooting and was no match for the two in terms of weapon or transport, having only a bicycle apparently. It is also rather unlikely that he would expect to see the car or recognise it, if it had continued on its way at a reasonable speed. No-one appears to have asked or answered these rather obvious questions.
The next question relates to how the video was made and subsequently circulated almost immediately after the event. I am not in a position to say what and when this was. Someone better informed may be able to. My impression is that somehow it received widespread dissemination by TV and on line newspaper channels almost immediately. The question is who filmed it and how was it down-loaded and published so quickly? Was this done with the approval and assistance of the French authorities or without it?
(NB. This question, it would appear, has only today been partially answered. See the bottom of this article.)
If the latter, the question immediately arises, how could this be? The French police are particularly secretive when it comes to such things. We have seen not only how images of victims, suspects and the crime scene were vigorously protected and retained from public view in the case of the Chevaline murders, even now prosecuting the TV channel that eventually aired them. How much more one would think of video of the death of one of its own?
I may be doing the French Government a disservice insofar as they didn’t authorise the video to go out and that it was done as a private initiative between the filmer and the media. Either way who filmed it and how it was circulated so quickly is highly significant to issues as to its reliability and the wider narrative. The 48 second video had huge psychological impact around the world quite disproportionate to its length. Some might detect a whiff of skilful manipulative propaganda?
Another question that naturally arises is how, without any pre-warning, the video came to be filmed, given the fact that it appears to capture events from their beginning? From the visual references above, the actual location of the filming can be seen – a balcony on the second floor behind an ionic stone balustrade. The clip lasts less than a minute. In this brief period the filmer had to be alerted to the disturbance, rationalize it, decide he would not only observe but film it, locate his phone or camera, turn it on, move to the window, open it and position himself above the parapet and start recording, all in time to get the sound of the initial gun reports. This is clearly impossible.
The only way the clip can be explained is if the filmer was primed and ready in position from the open window, set back at least a couple of feet from the outer face of the balcony. Or on the balcony itself. (The upper surface of the balustrade can be clearly seen on the video)
However try as I may, I cannot get the image and geometry of the curved balustrade to match the view towards the escaping gunmen or get a location directly opposite the sign which is at 90 degrees to the pavement and seen end on from the window vantage point. (On Google earth turn 180 degrees from the sign which should reveal the balcony but doesn’t) Then there is the small detail of what appears to be rustication (indented joints) to the masonry reveal, which appears to be absent in any of the openings in the façade of the eight storey, prestigious, 62 Boulevard Richard Lenoir building.
I am quite happy to be corrected on any of these observations if rational explanations are forthcoming .
Initially it was stated that the filmer wished to remain anonymous. Now it appears he has revealed himself with an explanation for why he acted as he did. It is covered below. People will have to make their own minds up as convincing it is. From the estate agent details it appears one of the flats in the eight storey block was sold in the last quarter of 2014. Not the flat in question surely?
Besides these difficulties there are some other rather aspects that strike me. We may assume the recording was made at or before 11.00 am local time, given that the attack we are told, started at 10.30 am, yet this busy arterial route north appears completely clear of traffic! Nothing queued behind the gunmen’s car, nothing to hold it up in front. How can this be explained? Further, despite time elapsed and police now alerted, the sound recording gives no indication of close, or distant for that matter, sirens that were surely wailing by that time?
And having said all that, why only that particular clip, so neatly ending once the deadly deed was done? Surely any interested genuine witness, having filmed during the potentially dangerous phase, when bullets could have potentially have been directed at him (his presence and location outside the parapet must have been obvious from the ground) would have continued filming or rushed to the assistance of the policeman? There must have been a great deal of activity following, as police and ambulance arrived, yet none of that is captured by the inquisitive filmer? This also surely begs an explanation?
Then there is another problem with reportage. The London Times, a reliable source one would have thought, in its next day edition on Thursday 8th January, 2015 Charles Bremner and Adam Sage write as follows:
“The Citroen C3 turned right into the Boulevard Richard Lenoir (my note: that’s from Allee Verte where the second bout of gunfire on the police car was said to have occurred) where it crossed the path of three policemen on bicycles. All French police carry arms and a second (me: actually third) gunfight broke out without any of the officers being hit.”
“However, a colleague from the local police station was hit by a bullet as he approached, leading to a third (me; actually fourth) spate of gun fire. He was hit by a bullet fired from the vehicle, which then drew to a halt.”
“The gunmen got out and one approached the officer as he lay injured on the pavement. “Do you want to kill me?” said the policeman holding up his hand. (Me: According to Le Parisien, the officer was heard in one video clip to say: “Voulez-vous me tuer? ) “OK Chief,” replied the terrorist before fatally shooting him in the head.” (Me: it is unclear whether he said this in English or if it is an idiomatic translation from the French)
“As the two attackers walked back to the car, one can be heard on the video filmed by a passer by (Me: Who he? “A passer by!”) shouting: “Hey, we have avenged the Prophet Muhammad, we’ve killed Charlie Hebdo.”
“His accent is that of a native Frenchman or at least someone who has lived in France for many years, according to commentators. The man then stopped to pick up a trainer that had fallen out of the vehicle before driving off.” END QUOTE.
You will notice that last quote confirms the reporters are referring to the video in question, which in turn raises many problems that are hard to reconcile with the video and its claimed location opposite 62 Boulevard Richard Lenoir. For example they say the gun fight happens soon after they turn into the south facing arm of the Boulevard and meet three Gendarmes, following which they engage Ahmed Merabet. They certainly give the impression this is the same location. It is a long way from there back north to number 62 via Rue du Chemin Verte so either the two events were quite separate or it all happened at 62.
If the latter, where are the other three policemen with weapons? There’s certainly no evidence of them on the video. Alternatively if their report is somewhat misleading and the two confrontations are separated by time and distance, why in the moving car did they stop and engage Merabet? It’s quite puzzling.
Then note it claims they first engage him from the car itself. From the video this would seem difficult if not impossible, as there is a large white van in the line of fire, unless in some way he was shot first before the video starts. This explanation appears unlikely as the gunmen are seen getting out of the car, nor apparently Merabet sought to use is weapon. So this aspect of the Times report is difficult to reconcile with the video.
Now as to the moment when shots are fired and particularly the final one to the victim’s head, others have drawn attention to the inconsistencies, particularly the plume of impact dust well past his head and the complete absence of brain splatter and blood that would have been quite inevitable at that distance and with that weapon. We have all seen a Mellon shot through at a hundred yards or indeed the Zapruder film of President Kennedy’s assassination shot, the shocking nature of which, we do not need to be reminded.
Linked with all the other issues above and elsewhere, and in a generally febrile climate of unprecedented scepticism of official explanations, there would certainly appear to be a need for some straight talking from the French authorities to answer all the points fully and fairly. If they don’t, alternative interpretations of events are likely to continue to circulate and flourish.
So to summarise, these are the questions:
1. From where was the video recorded, by whom, and how was it possible given the brevity of the incident? In other words was the filmer pre-warned and prepared for the incident to take place? 2. Why did the filming cease, or why was it cut short when the shooters took off? Why were they so disinterested in subsequent events when the immediate danger had passed? 3. Why is there no indication the filmer was spotted, challenged or threatened although he/she must have been in plain sight? 4. Why is it impossible to reconcile the film footage with what we are led to believe was the location from where it was taken: i.e. second floor balcony at 62 Boulevard Richard Lenoir? 5. How and by whom was the footage immediately placed in the public domain. Was this done by the French authorities or privately? Why contrary to normal practice of French Prosecutors and police was this permitted or at least objected to, in view of its primary evidence value and very sensitive nature of displaying the fatal shooting and body of a French policeman? If done with official approval why the very opposite approach in the case of the Chevaline murders? 6. What words were actually spoken by policeman and shooters and in what language? If in French from whence comes the reported retort “OK Chief.” which sounds distinctly un-French and more some sort of American/English military slang. 7. At what point and by whom was the rear window of the Citroen C3 shot out? 8. Where did the “three policemen on bicycles” get involved in a shoot-out and was this the same location as the video portrays or different? If different why and how did the criminals shoot and injure Merabet before they got out of their car. 9. It has been suggested that the retrieved trainer that fell out of the car indicated a change of clothing. Is that still the view and was it and other items later found in the abandoned car(s)? 10. It was later reported a car they were driving was “full of weapons”. Is it the view they had these initially or obtained them subsequently? If so, how? 11. How long did Merabet remain lying on the street and why does it appear there is a complete absence of any photographic record of subsequent events by emergency services which is highly unusual? 12. What is the explanation for the absence of street traffic in the video given that it purports to be mid-morning on a very busy route? Similarly why no evidence on the recording of sirens from emergency vehicles which must have been in operation by then with so many presumed dead? 13. And finally, what is the explanation for the expert opinion that the video affords no physical evidence of a head wound and that the puff of dust away from the head is indicative there was in fact no head wound? Rather strangely we have seen no pictures of forensic investigations at this particular site and have heard nothing of recovered bullet cartridges – at least nine if the video sound recording is genuine. Why is that and what supporting forensic evidence has been discovered? POSTSCRIPT: Since composing this piece it would appear some of my questions have been answered whilst others have been raised. It has now been stated in an “Independent” newspaper article here http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/charlie-hebdo-man-regrets-stupid-decision-to-put-video-of-police-officers-death-online-9971750.html dated today 13th January, 2015 that the person who took the video and immediately placed it on his Facebook page before he gave a copy to the police, was a Mr Jordi Mir, an engineer in his 50s. He says he was “horrified” to see it airing on television and You Tube and regrets doing it. He puts his decision down to his habitual practise of posting pictures on Facebook, the fact that he was alone in his flat and that he panicked. The article states:
“He did not realise what he was filming at first on Wednesday morning, when he walked to his window after being disturbed by the sound of gunshots. Mr Mir initially thought a bank robbery was being carried out and believed gunmen Said and Cherif Kouachi were part of a police SWAT team, unaware they had just massacred 11 people at the Charlie Hebdo offices. “I was completely panicked,” he said, being interviewed across the Parisian boulevard where Mr Merabet was shot dead.”
So now it is necessary to address some additional questions to the French authorities: 14. Of what nationality and religious persuasion (if any) is Mr Jordi Mir, and is there any reason to believe he is connected in any way with any foreign state or secret organisation? 15. Given the fact that shooting appears to start after the short video clip begins, what shooting is he referring to that he claims takes him to the window. 16. Given the brevity of the incident, what is his explanation for his ability to collect the device used, get to the window, open it, film the incident, all without any form of notice or warning, and is his explanation convincing to the authorities? Why did he fail to continue filming or post subsequent events on Facebook? 17. Given the precedent set in the Chevaline case, is it the intention of the French Prosecutor to take punitive action against Mr Mir for circulating crime scene evidence of a highly sensitive nature?
Now finally before leaving the subject another interesting twist from the “Independent” article referred to above, which raises more questions in this disturbing case. I quote:
“The 42-second clip shows two masked gunmen – later revealed to be the Kouachi brothers – walking towards 42-year-old Mr Merabet as he lay on the ground injured.
“You want to kill us?” one of the brothers says as he strides toward the wounded officer. “No, it’s OK, boss,” Merabet says, raising his hand in a gesture of surrender. He was then shot point-blank in the head.
“The footage prompted a new wave of horror and revulsion as the world reeled from the Charlie Hebdo attack. The front page of the next day’s Le Figaro newspaper featured a still from the video over an editorial called “war”.
“As police started arriving at the scene, Mr Mir downloaded his video on to a memory device and rushed outside to hand it to officers, before putting it online.” End Quote.
You will notice the story has now changed from that quoted by the Times earlier and roles have been completely reversed! Now it is the brothers who say “You want to kill us?” despite the very specific French rendition given earlier. And it is Merabet who says “No, it’s OK boss.” Note how “OK Chief.” has disappeared altogether.
This is very typical some would say of shady organisations in a position of power and influence, making subtle alterations to a script that raises descriptive or explanatory problems. What could the explanation be?