“A soldier among men”: Tributes to fallen gendarme

Tributes have poured in for Mr Beltrame, after he died during a terrorist siege this week

More tributes have been paid and flags set at half-mast in honour of the heroic gendarme officer who died during this week’s supermarket siege in the Aude.

Lieutenant-colonel Arnaud Beltrame’s actions have already been hailed as an “act of heroism” by Interior Minister Gérard Collomb, after the gendarme died from a gunshot wound during the terrorist siege at the Super U supermarket in Trèbes near Carcassonne.

Mr Beltrame helped a hostage to escape and replaced her in the siege, and kept his mobile phone line open to allow officers to monitor the situation from outside, before being fatally shot.

He was one of four people to be killed in the attack, which also injured 16, and has been identified as the work of 25-year-old Islamist Radouane Lakdim, a French national of Moroccan descent, who was working alone. Lakdim was also shot and killed during the standoff.

A white rose has been placed in Mr Beltrame's honour on the gendarmerie barracks gate in the Aude, while flags and standards across France have been lowered to half-mast this weekend.

General Richard Lizurey, general director of the Gendarmerie Nationale, led the tributes.

From the Gendarmerie Twitter account, he tweeted: “Flags and standards of the gendarmerie will be at half-mast today. This death on the job reminds us of the value of our service, that we give daily, to protect the population. All our thoughts are with his wife and his loved ones.”

Mr Beltrame’s former colleague in the Gendarmerie GIGN unit, Daniel Cerdan, also paid homage.

He said: “Arnaud loved life and was an active man. He personified the gendarmerie’s ‘human strength’, and really lived the adage ‘committing for life’. I am a little stunned that I have lost a colleague, but I am not surprised that he immediately took the hostage’s place. He served the Republic, and he was in the nation’s service.”

The mayor of Avranches, David Nicolas, who worked alongside Mr Beltrame during his stationing in the south of the Manche department (Normandy) in 2010-2014, said he was very distressed by the gendarme’s death.

He said: “It is a tragedy. But it is entirely within his character. He was a man of the earth. A real soldier among men. A hero in his soul. He needed action to exist within his vocation as a  gendarme.

“Knowing him, I can imagine him now, in the line of fire, saying: ‘It’s up to me to take this risk’. With the conviction only he had. He had the capacity to measure risk, and he knew he was putting himself in danger.”

International law enforcement agencies have also offered their condolences, including the Guardia Civil in Spain, and the Arma dei Carabinieri in Italy.

 

Mr Beltrame’s family also added their words.

His mother, speaking to RTL, said: “He would have told me, ‘I’m just doing my job, Mum, that’s all’. I am not surprised to hear what happened; he was always like that, someone who would give everything for his country. That was his reason for living; helping others.”

His brother Cedric added: “He died a hero. He must have known that he had almost no chance [of surviving], but he didn’t hesitate for a second.”

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