PARIS (AP) — A French jury on Thursday found two robbers guilty of murdering a policewoman after a failed holdup and a high-speed highway chase in 2010.
The 26-year-old victim, Aurelie Fouquet, a mother of a 14-month-old boy, was the first female local police officer killed on duty in France. Her death contributed to the government's decision to allow local police officers to be armed.
Daouda Baba was sentenced to 20 years in prison and Olivier Tracoulat, convicted in absentia, to 30 years at the end of the high-profile, seven-week trial. The Paris criminal court gave six other defendants sentences of between one and 18 years for their involvement in the attempted attack on an armored cash-transportation van outside Paris. One defendant was acquitted.
The robbery in May 2010 was foiled when a police car spotted one of the vehicles being used by the gang of 10 robbers. During the 10-kilometer (6-mile) highway chase through the morning rush hour, one of the robbers opened the back door of their van, fired at police officers with a submachine gun, unloaded the contents of tear gas canisters and fire extinguishers on their pursuers and threw the empty projectiles at the police car. Several police officers and civilians were wounded.
The van used by four of the robbers then left the highway and crashed. The attackers, wearing ski masks, gloves, bulletproof vests and combat gear, got out of the van and immediately fired multiple shots at a local police car that had just arrived, fatally wounding Fouquet.
The policewoman's death raised a wave of indignation in the country and a debate on the duties of the local police.
French local police officers used to be unarmed, but after the incident, the attack on Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 and the killing of another female local police officer by an Islamic extremist the following day, the government announced the state would provide local police officers with guns upon request. Some unofficial figures show that roughly a quarter of the 20,000 local police officers in France are now equipped with a firearm.
After the verdict was read by the court president during 50 minutes, the victim's mother, Elisabeth Fouquet, said she was "overwhelmed by it all".
"We were convinced we had the culprits in front of us. The court agreed with us," she told reporters. "It was seven trying weeks, both emotionally and mentally."