Car rams police van on Paris’ Champs Elysees, driver dead

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French police officers engage with a suspect outside a car at the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris on Mondayv in this still image obtained from social media. (Eugenio Morcillo via Reuters)
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French police inspect the dead body of a man who rammed into a police convoy and detonated an explosive device on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris on Monday. (Noemie Pfister via AP)
Updated 20 June 2017
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Car rams police van on Paris’ Champs Elysees, driver dead

PARIS: A man on the radar of French authorities for extremism was killed Monday after ramming a car carrying arms and explosives into a police convoy on Paris’ famed Champs-Elysees Avenue, setting off a fiery blast and a cloud of orange smoke, officials said. France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor opened an investigation.
Gendarmes jumped out of the vehicle, ran to the car, smashed its windows and pulled out the driver in an apparent attempt to save him, according to witness accounts. The interior minister confirmed that he died.
No one else was injured despite the crowds of tourists and others walking down the avenue on a hot, sunny day, the Paris police department said.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb called it an “attempted attack” and said it “shows once again that the threat level in France is extremely high.” The minister used the occasion to explain the continued need for a state of emergency, in place since 2015, and plans to extend it until Nov. 1, to be presented at a Cabinet meeting Wednesday.
A man could be seen lying on his stomach on the ground immediately after the incident, wearing a white shirt and dark shorts. The body was kept out of view under a tent, and later police were seen removing it, in a body bag on a stretcher.
If confirmed as a deliberate attack, this would be the fifth time this year that police forces have been targeted around the French capital.
Noemie Pfister, walking with her infant child and a friend, said she saw a car fly past a column of police vans, then fishtail. She wasn’t sure if she saw it ram into one of the vehicles because it happened so quickly, but she can’t forget the smoke and flames.
“I saw gendarmes get out of a van, run, break the window” of the car, she said in an interview. “They took the man out and put him a bit further away (from the car) on the other side of the road,” she recalled.
“I couldn’t understand, but I find it really strange that a car would pass (police) vans and all of a sudden spit fire,” said Pfister. “I thought in my mind of an attack.”
Leonard Odihe said he saw officers break into the car, pull the man out and throw two weapons on the ground, “a big pistol and another big arm like the weapons police carry.”
Odihe said he also saw bottles of gas, one of which apparently exploded inside the car.
Two police officials told The Associated Press that a handgun was found on the driver, who they said was badly burned after the vehicle exploded. They identified him as a 31-year-old man from the Paris suburb of Argenteuil who had an “S” file, meaning he was flagged for links to extremism.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal details of the incident, the second this year on the city’s most famous avenue, which is popular with tourists from around the world.
The interior minister said the current situation in France shows a new security law he is to present is needed to eventually “maintain a high security level” without the state of emergency.
Earlier this month, an attacker on foot went after a police patrol with a hammer in front of Notre Dame Cathedral.
In April, an attacker opened fire on a police van on the Champs Elysees, killing one officer and gravely wounding two others. The attacker was shot dead by police. That incident recalled two other attacks on soldiers providing security at prominent locations around Paris, one at the Louvre museum in February and one at Orly airport in March.
Victoria Boucher and daughter Chrystel came in from the suburb of Cergy-Pontoise for a Paris visit and weren’t afraid to go to the famed avenue.
“The show must go on,” the daughter said in English. “They won’t win.”
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Sylvie Corbet, Angela Charlton, Oleg Cetinic and Christophe Schopoliansky contributed.


Bill Cosby convicted of drugging and molesting a woman

Updated 26 April 2018
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Bill Cosby convicted of drugging and molesting a woman

NORRISTOWN-PENNSILVANIA: Bill Cosby was convicted Thursday of drugging and molesting a woman in the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era,
completing the spectacular late-life downfall of a comedian who broke racial barriers in Hollywood on his way to TV superstardom as America’s Dad.
Cosby, 80, could end up spending his final years in prison after a jury concluded he sexually violated Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. He claimed the encounter was consensual.
Cosby stared straight ahead as the verdict was read, but moments later lashed out loudly at District Attorney Kevin Steele and called him an “a--hole” after the prosecutor asked that Cosby be immediately jailed because he might flee. Cosby denied he has an airplane and shouted, “I’m sick of him!“
The judge decided Cosby can remain free on bail while he awaits sentencing.
Shrieks erupted in the courtroom when the verdict was announced, and some of his accusers whimpered and cried. Constand remained stoic, then hugged her lawyer and members of the prosecution team.
“Justice has been done!” celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who represented some of Cosby’s accusers, said on the courthouse steps. “We are so happy that finally we can say women are believed.”
The verdict came after a two-week retrial in which prosecutors put five other women on the stand who testified that Cosby, married for 54 years, drugged and violated them, too. One of those women asked him through her tears, “You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?“
The panel of seven men and five women reached a verdict after deliberating 14 hours over two days, vindicating prosecutors’ decision to retry Cosby after his first trial ended with a hung jury less than a year ago.
Cosby could get up to 10 years in prison on each of the three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He is likely to get less than that under state sentencing guidelines, but given his age, even a modest term could mean he will die behind bars.
Constand, 45, a former Temple women’s basketball administrator, told jurors that Cosby knocked her out with three blue pills he called “your friends” and then penetrated her with his fingers as she lay immobilized, unable to resist or say no.
It was the only criminal case to arise from a barrage of allegations from more than 60 women who said the former TV star drugged and molested them over a span of five decades.
“The time for the defendant to escape justice is over,” prosecutor Stewart Ryan said in his closing argument. “It’s finally time for the defendant to dine on the banquet of his own consequences.”
Another prosecutor, Kristen Feden, said Cosby was “nothing like the image that he played on TV” as sweater-wearing, wisdom-dispensing father of five Dr. Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.”