In recidivism, the driver of a van who killed a police officer faces life imprisonment

In recidivism, the driver of a van who killed a policeman faces life imprisonment (AFP / LOIC VENANCE)

The trial of Farès D., who admits to being the driver of a fleeing van having fatally mowed down a policeman during a night operation in Bron, in the suburbs of Lyon, opened on Monday before the Assizes of Lyon.

The accused, alone in the box, is wrapped in a black down jacket. Farès D., 24, his face still youthful, appears in the room of the Assize Court of Lyon. The family of the victim, who is a civil party, cannot help noticing: “He’s a kid”.

The emotion is strong for the mother and the two brothers of the victim. Franck Labois, a 1m90 man passionate about ice hockey, was the last of three siblings.

Farès D. is charged with murder of a person holding public authority in the exercise of his functions. Because he is in a situation of criminal recidivism (for acts committed when he was a minor), he faces life imprisonment.

To the first questions from the president of the court, the accused replied laconically: yes, he was indeed the driver of the van that hit the policeman. No, he had no intention of killing the latter.

To fully understand the circumstances in which the policeman died, you have to go back to an investigation by the departmental security, which has been monitoring a team of criminals for some time. About fifteen facts are imputed to them, according to the same method: violent thefts of freight while pretending to be the police thanks to a flashing light that they carry.

On the night of January 10 to 11, 2020, with the support of the Operational Support Group (GAO) to which Franck Labois belongs, the police decided to arrest them, after having observed a new theft in the act. That night, they attacked a laundry load on a motorway rest area in Isère.

“Opportunists”, said one of the witnesses, a police major, describing criminals who were sometimes ill-prepared, who did not scout, sometimes made gross mistakes such as confusing a cheese manufacturer’s truck with that of a cigarette carrier.

– “A lot of regrets” –

The attempted interception, led by the GAO, takes place a little later, when the Volkswagen van carrying the stolen goods returns to the outskirts of Lyon.

The van found itself pinned by two vehicles, came to a halt briefly, then suddenly made a maneuver to get free. And hit Franck Labois head-on, standing in his way, gun in hand.

There will be no trace of braking on the ground. The samples suggest that the policeman was dragged about ten meters. His bulletproof vest was shredded by the violence of the impact. He died three days later in hospital.

The occupants of the van abandon it in haste. The objects found, including partly charred gloves, and telephone geolocations will make it possible to trace, thanks to DNA analysis, several suspects, including Farès D., arrested on January 16.

According to investigators, he immediately recognizes that he is the driver. He says he thought “he had room to go” to flee, reports the director of the investigation.

His conversations from the prison where he is in pre-trial detention are tapped. To those close to him, he claims that the policeman put himself in front of him, and wanted to “play superhero”. “It was him or me,” he says, according to the transcripts.

The defense, for its part, questioned the witnesses on the intentional nature of the homicide, underlined that during these wiretappings the accused spoke of an accident. And begins to question the device put in place to intercept the van.

After two testimonies from investigators, the president of the court gives the floor back to the accused. “I have a lot of regrets, despite what I may have said”, assures Farès D. “I did not want to hit Mr. Labois”, he reiterates. “I never wanted to come to this.”

In recidivism, the driver of a van who killed a police officer faces life imprisonment