French cop who ‘always put others first’
Arnaud Beltrame's family were devastated to hear that he had sacrificed his life to help end a jihadist attack, but they were not surprised: he was always putting other people first.
The police officer, who receives a full national honour ceremony on Wednesday, has been hailed as a hero for offering himself as a hostage during Friday’s attack in southwest France.
“He was always like that — he’s someone who ever since he was born did everything for his country,” his mother Nicolle told RTL radio.
“He would tell me, ‘Mum, I do my job. That’s all’.”
President Emmanuel Macron, who will give Wednesday’s eulogy, said the married 44-year-old had “displayed exceptional calm in the heat of the moment”.
Beltrame had hoped to be able to negotiate with attacker Radouane Lakdim once the woman he was using as a human shield in a supermarket siege had been taken to safety.
Instead, Lakdim shot Beltrame and slit his throat. He became the fourth victim of a shooting spree that has stunned the normally tranquil towns of Carcassonne and Trebes.
Beltrame’s brother Damien said his last act, putting his own life on the line to help others, was typical of him.
“You behaved in your last moments just as you behaved throughout your whole life,” he wrote on Facebook.
“As a patriot, as a good man, as a man with a big heart.”
– Decorated in Iraq –
Known for his cheery disposition, Lieutenant-Colonel Beltrame joined the army reserves at 23. He trained as a parachutist before graduating in 1999 from the EMIA military college.
His superiors there described him as someone who “fought until the end and never gave up”, Macron said.
As an elite member of France’s gendarmerie military police force, Beltrame was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and was decorated two years later for his bravery there.
Back in France, he served for four years protecting the presidential palace before eventually settling in the Aude region as the local force’s deputy commander.
By strange coincidence, back in December he had simulated a terrorist attack at a supermarket: a scenario horribly similar to the siege in which he gave his life.
“For him, being a policeman was about protecting people,” said his widow Marielle, a veterinarian.
The couple, who did not have children, had been due to celebrate their civil marriage with a religious wedding this year.
Beltrame’s faith, which came relatively late in life at the age of 33, was important to him, his wife told the Christian weekly La Vie.
His last act “was the act of a policeman and the act of a Christian”, she said.
“You can’t separate one from the other.”