The death of a delivery driver after being arrested in Paris has seized the headlines in France almost six months after the tragic event took place. Video footage and witness statements show that Cédric Chouviat was abused, manhandled and insulted by the officers before being forced to the ground and put into a stranglehold.
Mr Chouviat said he could not breathe seven times in 22 seconds as officers pinned him to the ground.
Despite witness statements, a report by the National Gendarmerie Institute for Criminal Research said the exchanges between the police and the delivery driver were “correct”, although officers may have felt he was being “provocative” or “defiant”.
Edwy Plenel, Co-founder of Mediapart, one of the media outlets that has pursued the case, said on live TV on Tuesday that insults and profanity were used by the police, not be the victim.
The case has particular significance because of the similar death in the US of George Floyd, and because of the fact that France’s interior minister banned the use of chokeholds shortly after the Floyd case merged, and then, in the face of strong police opposition, reversed his decision.
Mr Chouviat suffered a heart attack and was taken to hospital in a coma. He died two days later, from asphyxia and a “fracture of the larynx”.
Laurent-Franck Lienard, a lawyer for three of the officers, said that they had not heard Chouviat’s last words, “I am suffocating.” They “had absolutely no idea” what he was saying, the lawyer claimed. Lienard added that the arrested man had subjected police to “around 15 minutes of insults”, calling them “clowns”, “puppets” and “fools”. He said his clients had not used the chokehold.
Appearing on BFMTV Cedric Jacob of the police federation Alternative Police accused ‘certain lawyers” – who are well known for such behaviour – of exaggeration and politicising the death of Mr Chouviat.
The four police officers are being questioned for “involuntary homicide” but have not been suspended. They claimed that they stopped the moped driver because he had a dirty licence plate and described him as abusive.
“I don’t understand why the four policeman have not been suspended,” Mr Chouviat’s teenage daughter said on live television on Tuesday.
PHOTO: Cédric Chouviat. Soutiens pour Cédric