Angry customer takes BMW hostage at gunpoint in France

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A man enraged by problems with his BMW car grabbed a shotgun and took an employee hostage at the automaker's French headquarters on Monday, an official said.

The man fired twice in the air with a pump-action shotgun without shooting anyone and took a receptionist hostage briefly before surrendering to police at the German manufacturer's offices west of Paris, officials said.

"It's an average customer who complains that his vehicle has mechanical problems and that BMW is unable to repair them," state prosecutor Luc-Andre Lenormand told AFP, saying the man had targeted BMW several times before.

"It was premeditated," Lenormand said. "He will be charged with arson, armed threats and illegal detention" and will be examined by a psychiatrist, he added. The receptionist was receiving psychological counselling.

The man was already facing charges for assaulting an employee at a BMW dealership and was suspected to have plotted in 2006 to hire accomplices to break into a BMW dealer's home and kill him and his family, Lenormand said.

In 2003 the suspect had tried to set himself on fire in front of the BMW dealership where he had bought his car.

Earlier media reports had said the man was a former BMW employee and that a salesman had also been taken hostage.

Police said the man lit a fire in the headquarters which did not cause much damage and no one was hurt during the incident. An employee raised the alarm by text message.

A BMW spokesman, Patrick Lucas, said there were about 80 employees present and "they evacuated when they learned there was an intruder downstairs."

The head of communications at the site, Jean-Michel Juchet, said the employees fled to the canteen and police soon arrived, adding he was "happy this incident ended up as just a minor story."

© 2010 AFP

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