March 20 (UPI) — A suspected Islamist gunman shot to death by police at Paris’ Orly Airport consumed cocaine, marijuana and alcohol before taking a soldier hostage, toxicology reports show.
Ziyed Ben Balgacem, 39, announced Saturday he wanted to “die by Allah” and that “people are going to die” before grabbing a soldier’s assault rifle, then putting an air pistol to her head and using her as a shield. He was shot by a military patrol within the airport, as the busy South Terminal was evacuated.
Belgacem, who had an extensive criminal record with armed robbery and drug offenses, spent early Saturday drinking at a bar. He later fired a pellet gun at police manning a northern Paris traffic checkpoint, and abandoned a vehicle he carjacked. The car was found at the airport. A toxicology report conducted during an autopsy indicated he had twice the legal limit of alcohol for driving in France; trace amounts of cocaine and marijuana were also found, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
Prosecutor Francois Molins said a Koran was found on Belgacem’s body, adding cocaine was discovered during a search of the suspect’s residence. His house was among dozens searched after the 2015 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, Molins said.
A man identified as the suspect’s father said in a radio interview after the incident that his son was not a practicing Muslim, adding, “My son was never a terrorist. He never attended prayer. He drank, but under the effects of alcohol and cannabis [marijuana] this is where one ends up.”
Moulins said the suspect phoned his father and brother after he fired at the traffic checkpoint, saying he made a mistake. One officer sustained facial injuries in the shooting.
The airport attack came at a moment when France is on edge; the country remains under a state of emergency, and presidential elections begin in April.