The mother of a French police officer who was killed after he swapped himself for a hostage during an Islamic extremist attack on a supermarket says that she wasn’t surprised by her son’s courage.
Col Arnaud Beltrame had offered himself up unarmed to the 25-year-old attacker in exchange for a female hostage in the southern town of Trebes.
The attacker shot him and Mr Beltrame later died of his injures.
Mr Beltrame’s mother told RTL radio on Friday night, before the announcement of his death, that “I’m not surprised. I knew it had to be him. He has always been like that. It’s someone, since he was born, who gives everything for his homeland”.
Asked if she was proud of him, she said he would have told her “‘I’m doing my job mom, that’s all’.”
She said to “defend the homeland” was his “reason for living”. RTL did not give her name.
And his brother, Cedric Beltrame, told RTL radio on Saturday that he “gave his life for strangers”.
He added that his brother “was well aware he had almost no chance. He was very aware of what he was doing.”
Cedric Beltrame also stressed that his brother kept his professional wits about him. The officer managed to surreptitiously leave his mobile phone on so that police outside could hear what was going on inside the supermarket.
Cedric Beltrame said that “if we don’t describe him as a hero, I don’t know what you need to do to be a hero. It’s a word I think is appropriate for him in such tragic circumstances”.
Meanwhile, the manager of the supermarket says she felt “helpless” as the attacker fired shots in her store.
The woman, who would identify herself only by her first name, Samia, says she was in her office when she heard the shots.
She came downstairs, saw what was happening and called police. She said she helped evacuate as many people as possible.
She said from inside city hall, where the local government had set up a crisis centre, that “it was terrifying”.