He was “everything” to his mother, a quiet boy in their Paris neighborhood killed by a policeman’s bullet that has sparked riots and soul-searching in a country where police have long segregated minorities. Has faced charges of doing so.
Nahel M was shot dead by a police officer at a traffic stop on Tuesday, sparking riots across France, but the massive police deployment was unable to quell the protests.
He grew up in an estate called Pablo Picasso in Nanterre, a suburb of Paris where many immigrants live.
His mother, whose family is from Algeria – a former French colony that has contributed most of North African immigration to France – raised him alone.
When news began to spread that he had been shot and killed by police at a traffic stop while driving a rental car, his neighborhood became an early scene of outrage across the country ahead of his funeral on Saturday.
Although officials remained silent about Nahel’s ethnic background, France quickly caught on.
Initial reactions came from rap stars in Marseille, a southern port city with high immigration from North Africa.
Soccer superstar Kylian Mbappe and actor Omar Sy, who are both black, also quickly tweeted their support.
Only a month ago, Nahel’s dream came true when he was chosen to appear as an extra in a video clip of star rapper Jul, which he filmed in Nanterre.
After Nahel’s death, Juul appealed for financial help for the family of the boy he called “my little brother”.
‘You know how young people are’
During a tribute march in his memory on Thursday, Nahel’s name became a rallying cry for thousands of people who believe his life cut short is another example of police treatment of youths of Arab and African backgrounds.
“Nahel was a quiet boy,” said Saliha, his neighbor.
The 65-year-old said that even though Nahel had had run-ins with the law before, “you know how young people are at 17”.
“In what world is this reason to kill them?”
His mother, Mounia, used to call her son “my best friend” and “my everything”.
She said she was “revolted” by the circumstances of his death, but unlike many here, she did not place full blame on the police.
She said, “I blame one person: the one who took my son’s life.”
Nahel’s death echoed across the Mediterranean to Algeria, although it is still not officially known whether he was a dual citizen or not.
The Algerian Foreign Ministry expressed its “concern” over the events, and called Nahel an Algerian “national” who was to be provided protection by France.
According to the family’s lawyer, Nahel, who was also close to his maternal grandmother, earned money as a delivery man.
He was also enrolled in a program designed to help with the integration of youths from troubled neighborhoods through sport, in his case rugby.
Nahel had no criminal record. The Nanterre prosecutor said there had been incidents of police refusing to stop for investigation. He was summoned to appear in juvenile court in September.
On Tuesday, police said he had caught their attention for rash driving.
Nahel dropped out of school, but he was “not a bigot,” said Jeff Puech, president of Ovale Citoyen, where Nahel was enrolled.
“He wanted to make it.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV Staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)