French Probe into Death of Man Fleeing from Police
French prosecutors on Friday announced a preliminary investigation into the death during a police pursuit of a relative of Adama Traore, whose death in police custody in 2016 has become a rallying point for alleged brutality.
Mahamadou Fofana, whose family say he is a cousin of Traore, drowned in the Seine River on Sunday after taking flight from police who allegedly came upon him trying to load a motorcycle into a truck with four other men.
The Traore case was thrust back into the spotlight with the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States sparked by the death of George Floyd after he was pinned down by a white officer's knee for nearly nine minutes.
Police say 35-year-old Fofana jumped in to the river of his own accord, and drowned despite attempts to save his life.
But the family claim that he suffered at least one blow to the head.
The prosecutor's office in Versailles said Friday an investigation would seek to determine the cause of death.
Fofana has been wanted since 2017 on drug dealing charges.
Traore, 24, died while under arrest, after allegedly being pinned to the ground by police officers.
French judges in July ordered a new medical inquiry to ascertain the cause of Traore's death, which made him a symbol of alleged police racism and violence, sparking numerous protest marches in recent months.
In May, French medical experts exonerated three police officers involved in Traore's arrest saying that he did not die of "positional asphyxia" or choking.
Instead, the experts found Traore died of heart failure possibly brought on by underlying health conditions in a context of "intense stress" and physical exertion.
French judges have now called on Belgian experts to conduct a forensic examination of the evidence, and their results are expected in January 2021.