French praise policeman in hostage swap

Associated Press

TREBES, France

The French police officer who swapped places with a female supermarket employee being held hostage had already received a lifetime of accolades by the time he walked unarmed into the store under attack by an extremist gunman.

Known for his courage and sangfroid, Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame was acclaimed by neighbors, colleagues and French authorities as a hero Saturday after his death from wounds the day before. President Emmanuel Macron announced plans for a national ceremony to formally honor him.

After agreeing to the hostage swap, Beltrame surrendered his weapon – but kept his cellphone on, allowing authorities outside the Super U market in the southern French town of Trebes to hear what was happening inside.

Thanks to Beltrame’s quick thinking, special police units heard gunshots inside the store Friday and stormed the building immediately, killing the attacker.

“Beyond his job, he gave his life for someone else, for a stranger,” his brother, Cedric, told RTL radio in France. “He was well aware he had almost no chance. He was very aware of what he was doing. ... If we don’t describe him as a hero, I don’t know what you need to do to be a hero.”

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