The officers from the Gendarmerie National Police Force were killed by a lone gunman in Puy-de-Dôme, west of Lyon, shortly after midnight on Wednesday. BFM reported that the police officers were fatally shot by a 48-year-old man as they tried to rescue a woman who had taken refuge on the roof of a house.
In a statement from France’s Ministry of the Interior, the three officers were named as Lieutenant Cyril Morel, Warrant Officer Rémi Dupuis, and Brigadier Arno Mavel, of the Puy-de-Dôme Departmental Gendarmerie.
“Called upon to intervene to help a woman who had been beaten by her husband, the gendarmes (officers), in circumstances that have yet to be clarified, were shot at by the man and returned fire,” the statement said.
The statement said Mavel, 21, was seriously wounded and succumbed to his injuries. The two other officers carrying out a reconnaissance towards the house were in turn caught under fire. Morel, 45, and Dupuis, 37, were fatally wounded. A fourth officer who was wounded in the thigh is being taken care of by the emergency services; his life is not in danger.
According to BFM, the alleged gunman set fire to the house after the shooting. French press agency AFP cited officials saying the woman had been rescued, and that at least seven elite tactical police officers remained on site.
A manhunt is continuing in the area to locate the suspect.
Speaking to BFM, the mayor of Saint-Just Francois Chautard, which is in the Puy-de-Dôme department, said the house had been destroyed by the fire.
“They don’t know what’s in the rubble or if he managed to escape,” the mayor said, adding that the incident was “apparently a domestic scene that’s gone wrong.”
On Twitter, French Prime Minister Jean Castex wrote that “this tragedy affects us all and grieves the whole country.”