French gunman's capture revives memories of bizarre '90s shooting spree

Abdelhakim Dekhar, who went on a shooting rampage Monday, gained notoriety 20 years ago when he was jailed for arming a couple dubbed France's 'Bonnie and Clyde.'

Gonzalo Fuentes/REUTERS
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins (r.) speaks while Christian Flaesch, director of the Paris' judiciary police, looks on at a news conference in Paris November 21, 2013. French police have arrested Abdelhakim Dekhar, a man suspected of shooting and seriously wounding an employee of the left-wing Paris newspaper Liberation and firing a shotgun at the headquarters of a major bank.

With the capture of the suspected gunman who fired a gun into a Parisian newspaper office Monday, critically injuring a photographer, France should be looking forward.

Instead it's been sent 20 years back, as it recalls a bizarre case that's been compared to the plot line of the movie “Natural Born Killers.”

France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls said the suspect, Abdelhakim Dekhar – who shot into the offices of Liberation before shooting at a bank headquarters and taking a driver hostage briefly – was found Wednesday night after a tipoff .

Mr. Dekhar became something of a household name after a 1994 incident involving  a young couple, dubbed France's “Bonnie and Clyde,” who ended up in a car chase and shooting spree that left several dead. Dekhar was accused of aiding the couple, who belonged to an anarchist group.

Dekhar served four years in prison but then was released. No trace of him had emerged – authorities believe he may have gone abroad – until this week.

“All evidence points to his implication in the shootings,” Mr. Valls said last night. “There will now be a careful investigation to understand his exact motives.”

The rampage began Monday when a gunman, now believed to be Dekhar, walked through the glass-sliding door of Liberation and fired two shots, before firing outside the bank, generating panic in Paris as he remained on the loose.

Authorities quickly tied him to another incident on Friday night at a Parisian television station, in which a gunman stormed the doors and threatened the staff before fleeing.

Liberation's director of publications, Nicolas Demorand, said Thursday that Dekhar's arrest was of “enormous relief.”

President François Hollande hailed the police for preventing “the worst from happening again.”

But French media are now fixating on the events of the 1994 “Rey-Maupin” affair that included a shootout with police in Paris that left several dead, including Audry Maupin, one of the perpetrators. His girlfriend, Florence Rey, survived and was sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Dekhar was handed a jail sentence as well for buying a gun that the couple used in the shootout, but he denied any involvement with them. He claimed to be an agent of the Algerian security forces. But it was left unclear what his motive was then.

“Along with Rey, Dekhar became a household name in France in a story that gripped the nation for years. And despite his involvement in such a high-profile case, almost nothing is known about Dekhar,” writes France 24.

That may have remained true after this case, too. Dekhar was found in a parking garage, on the outskirts of Paris, Wednesday night. Authorities says he may have been attempting suicide at the time of his capture, as he was heavily medicated and incoherent.

He apparently did leave two letters, one of which ranted about the manipulation of the media and capitalism and made vague references to the situation in Syria. Valls had earlier said a political motive was not possible to establish “at this point,” according to Radio France International.

But because he was arrested, France may get solid answers for the why behind his words as they grapple with the violence that shook Paris this week. They may even glean more insight into the violence that shocked the city two decades ago. 

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