PARIS (AP) — Outrage is growing in France over the decision to bring voluntary homicide charges against a jeweler who shot and killed an escaping robber, but the country's top security official on Tuesday urged fearful storekeepers to let justice take its course.
The 67-year-old jeweler, Stephan Turk, was confined at home with an electronic bracelet after the shooting last week that left a teenage robber dead in the street outside Turk's jewelry story in the French Riviera city of Nice. An accomplice escaped on a motorbike as the body lay in the street.
In a country where gun violence is rare but armed robbery is increasingly common, the shooting — and the formal charges of voluntary homicide — have placed the government in a difficult position.
"Even when faced with the unbearable, we have to let justice prevail," Interior Minister Manuel Valls said Tuesday in Nice, where he was sent by the president a day after a protest by hundreds of Turk's supporters.
Jewelers in southern France say they're being targeted as never before and lack the resources to protect themselves.
"It was a difficult situation. I don't know how I would have reacted myself. I don't endorse what he did, but he had been beaten and threatened with death," Yan Turk, the son of the jeweler, told the Nice Matin paper. "We've had it with being targeted by robbers."
The young man killed, 19-year-old Anthony Asli, had been in trouble as a juvenile and was freed about a month ago from his most recent stint in detention, shedding his own electronic bracelet and moving in with a longtime girlfriend who is pregnant with their child. Asli's family described him as impressionable and immature.
"The family's not condoning the robbery. They're not condoning it and they're not excusing it. It was Anthony's fault. But did he deserve to die in these conditions?" their lawyer, Olivier Castellacci, said Tuesday. "We don't have, in France, the notion of taking justice into your own hands. The family is revolted by that."
But France has seen a spate of high-profile jewelry thefts lately, and Castellacci said the mobilization in support of the jeweler is a reflection of unease with increasing violence.
The robbery was carried out with a shotgun, he said. It wasn't clear whether Asli and the accomplice both had firearms.
A single gunman in the southern city of Cannes made off with a $136 million cache this summer. That was followed by another armed robbery days later in the same city. In Paris' wealthy Place Vendome on Sept. 9, thieves drove a sport utility vehicle into a jewelry store, grabbed 2 million euros ($2.7 million) worth of loot, then set the vehicle on fire and escaped.