Gendarme Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, a 45-year-old police officer who swapped himself for a hostage held by a terrorist at a supermarket siege in Trèbes, France died of his wounds on March 24.
Tributes have poured in since Beltrame’s death. French President Emmanuel Macron stated that Beltrame had “fallen as a hero” and that he “is a great honor to his force and to his country.” Likewise, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb tweeted, “France will never forget his heroism, his bravery, his sacrifice.” Beltrame’s family, the gendarmerie, and the international community also paid tribute to his courage on social media.
Radouane Lakdim, the terrorist who killed Beltrame, had pledged allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS). On March 23, Lakdim began his attack by hijacking a car in Carcassonne, killing a passenger and injuring the driver. Then he shot a group of policemen attempting to apprehend him, injuring one. When he got to the SuperU Trèbes supermarket, he fired again and left two policemen dead. According to a witness, Lakdim shouted, “Allahu Akbar,” which means “God is the greatest” as he walked into the supermarket.
One shopper led people into a refrigerated area to find shelter, and they found an emergency exit. However, one female shopper remained inside and Lakdim held her hostage. Beltrame volunteered to exchange himself for the hostage; Lakdim agreed.
Before entering SuperU, Beltrame called another gendarme and left the call open so that his commanding officers could hear what transpired inside. Once his commanding officers heard shots fired over the open call, they ordered a specialized commando unit to raid the supermarket. One of those shots fired by the terrorist before the raid severely injured Beltrame. Lakdim was killed in the ensuing assault.
Eric Menassi, the mayor of Trèbes, told BFMTV that Lakdim demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, the prime surviving suspect of the 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people. The ISIS-affiliated Amaq News Agency claimed responsibility by describing Lakdim as a “soldier of the Islamic State” and said that Lakdim had responded to the terrorist group’s call to target “coalition countries,” meaning countries that are part of the U.S.-led coalition that has been fighting ISIS.
Beltrame was planning a church ceremony on June 9 with his common-law wife, Marielle. Instead, the priest who would have officiated the wedding gave him his last rites while his wife kept vigil at his bedside.