Paris, France – A new investigation into the death of an 80-year-old Algerian woman after being hit by a tear gas canister during a demonstration wearing a “yellow vest” suggests that police shot right at her window, contradicting an initial report the exempted the officers from any wrongdoing.
On December 1, 2018, Zineb Redouane reportedly closed her shutters when she was hit with the tear gas canister by a police officer who was thrown into her fourth-floor apartment.
A day later, she died of her injuries in hospital.
The investigation, conducted by the NGO Disclose, used reconstructions of the University of London’s forensic architecture and an official report from French ballistics experts to create a 3D model of the scene.
According to the report, the tear gas canister would have traveled at a speed of more than 60 km / h when it arrived in Redouane.
“It can be said that this is a very legitimate feeling that she has been targeted,” Martyna Marciniak, a researcher at Forensic Architecture who worked on the report, told Al Jazeera.
Marciniak stopped to confirm these suspicions, but said the French government was providing limited amount of official evidence.
The 73-page ballistics report released in May concluded that the officer who threw the tear gas canister did not see Redouane as he fired it, stating that he “hit the victim in a completely random manner” and at an angle within the legal limit of 30 to 45 degrees.
“We were shocked by the limitation of the statement … no other circumstances were mentioned that would suggest that this shot was irresponsible, dangerous or illegal,” said Marciniak.
According to the counter-investigation, the presence of several buildings directly in front of the rifle officer, even if the fire was within legal limits, should at least have been a red warning.
A Lyon court, now responsible for the case, has yet to rule on the results of the ballistic report.
Zineb Redouane with her grandchildren [Courtesy of Milfet Redouane]
Ex-Home Secretary accused of hiding evidence
The counter-investigation took place when Redouane’s daughter Milfed filed a legal complaint against the then Interior Minister Christophe Castaner for “concealing evidence”.
Yassine Bouzrou, the family’s lawyer, told Al Jazeera: “Castan’s lies have had a huge impact on the judiciary, which refuses to prosecute the policeman who killed Madame Redouane.”
In the months following the incident, Castaner repeatedly claimed that Redouane’s death was due to a cardiac arrest unrelated to police.
“I will not let you say that the police killed Zineb Redouane because it was wrong,” Castaner told French radio station France Inter in March 2019.
In a recent defense, Castaner said he was merely referring to an autopsy report ordered by Marseille Prosecutor Xavier Tarabeaux describing her as a “victim of cardiac arrest on the operating table”.
A later second autopsy in Algiers showed: “[Facial] Trauma is directly responsible for her death ”, which brings the cause back to the police.
A separate preliminary investigation by the Inspection Generale de la Police Nationale (IGPN), France’s official police guard, has also exempted the police from any wrongdoing.
In an interview with Mediapart last year, Milfet Redouane said she was on the phone with her mother when she was hit with the tear gas canister.
“Then the phone fell,” she told Mediapart. “I heard her scream … then she picked up the phone and said, ‘He was targeting me, the police were targeting me! I made eye contact with two police officers – one shot me. Then they got in their car and left. “
Milfet said maybe the police thought their mother was filming them as they threw the grenade.
Meanwhile, Bouzrou said he was shocked that prosecutors were not doing anything to bring officers to justice.
“I’ve never seen an investigation like this before,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that he couldn’t help but wonder if the case would be different if the victim wasn’t an 80-year-old Algerian.