Monday, August 27, 2007

French officials address explosive violence

Note: This post is part of the Bizarro Blog-a-Thon at Lazy Eye Theatre.

By Eve Roth
The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) -- Police officials from Paris, Nice and Arles gathered in the nation's capital city today to address mounting criticism stemming from a recent hurricane of violence that swept through the three cities. In its wake was untold levels of property damage, at least seven civilian deaths, countless smashed cars and the dramatic murder of figure skater Natacha Kirilova. Yet the most damning element of the whole affair was the number zero. As in the number of arrests made by police, and the number of leads about who was responsible.

"We have reason to believe that some of them are still alive, and that one could be an American," Paris Police Chief Raul Beauvais said while trying to look tough, possibly in a poor impression of John Wayne.

French media outlets have been unanimous in condemning local authorities, who they say are contributing to their nation's stereotype as a leaf in the wind when it comes to violent conflict.

"This band of thugs essentially played a game of 'Grand Theft Auto' in our country, and all we have to go on is that a few of them may have had dark hair," blasted crime columnist Frederic St. Videau of the Paris Plain Dealer. "Unless we're targeting stylish criminals as an untapped consumer, then we need to find a new police force."

The carnage began two weeks ago in Paris, when a wild shootout erupted over an apparent arms deal gone bad. After the surviving party predictably escaped, police found four dead Parisian mobsters. It may have seemed like just another Saturday night in Paris, but it was just the start of a maniacal spree of mayhem over the next week.

In Nice two days later, a fantastic barrage of shootings and explosions left residents of the sleepy tourist town stunned.

"I'm fine with guns, but do they really need grenade launchers and bazookas?" echoed longtime village sage Luc Devereaux while lazily filling his tobacco pipe. "And seriously, why do they need to target fruit stands?"

The Nice fruit stand was where the eruption started, with two gentlemen in a Mercedes opening fire on a motorcade of five sedans, with one employing a grenade launcher to great effect. After dispatching two of the cars in spectacular fashion, the party in the Mercedes chased after a Citroen, which met its fiery end through the crosshairs of a well-aimed bazooka.

"You could tell he knew how to handle that little firecracker," observed known vagrant "Sticks," while clutching a sack of carrot stems. "It blew up, then kept sliding down the road. Almost like a badger on election day."

But that was just the opening act of the day's horrible festivities. The cars continued chase, weaving in and out of Nice alleys and even forest roads, smashing into a fish market before destroying a quaint restaurant patio with an outburst of gunfire. Despite a flurry of spilled blood and innocent death, it was here that authorities nearly had their moment of triumph. The Nice SWAT team arrived, however it was only in time to witness the last of the awful visitors speed off in a huff.

"You bet our guys were there, with guns drawn and brows furrowed," grinned Nice Police spokesman Guy Garnier-Fulke, leaning precariously close to the press corps. "But then they drove off, what were our men supposed to do -- run after them?"

The one saving grace of the Nice tragedy was that further casualties were eliminated through the help of the city's "No Afternoon Drives" program, where no one is permitted in their cars past 2 p.m. Because of this, the awesome race-car driving skill of our troublers were left unimpeded -- for better or worse.

One day later, the two men seen involved in the Nice disturbance (both possibly with dark hair) arrived in the historic burg of Arles. Whether this was a tourist stop for the criminals or not, it still resulted in the deaths of two sight-seers by gunshot. Like the Nice authorities, Arles Police came close to apprehending the conspirators, only to watch them car-jack a poor soul and escape.

"We didn't plan on them having a reverse gear," lamented recently-axed Arles Police Chief Carl Peterson, who announced after the press conference that he would retire to his native land of Baraboo, Wisc.

With the knowledge of a crime spree terrorizing the country, Paris Police still decided on the questionable action of an early weekend -- leaving but three constables to patrol the whole city for a span of 96 hours. The timing couldn't have been worse, as the "Gruesome Twosome" -- as the Lichtensteinian press has dubbed them -- made their way into the French capital for a riotous chase.

Clips of this two-car chase have been among the most popular on the Belgian file sharing Web site ClipTubMan, and those who witnessed it will never forget its awesome spectacle.

"Oh my God, it was like Ayrton Senna had come back from the grave to show us mortals how real driving is done!" recalled noted Formula 1 enthusiast, and current NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne, who spied the chase from the confines of a Paris lingerie shop.

The infamous chase resulted in the wreckage of 25 cars, killed at least one driver, and shocked untold onlookers as the black BMW and blue Peugeot weaved through oncoming traffic. French Transportation Minister praised Parisian drivers on this black day, noting that many of them were not exceeding 20 kph during the chase, despite driving in a 60 kph zone.

Because of Paris' limited police force on that day, the closest authorities got to the chase was a base-pay constable who gave chase in a tunnel, only to flip his car after driving over a small traffic divider. Adding to the agency's black eye was the fact that the lead car in the chase (the black BMW) crashed over an incomplete freeway segment and even blew up -- yet no one was taken into custody.

"Even if we had our full complement of officers, how many would we have had patrolling at the base of a freeway construction site?" Beauvais asked half-sincerely while pouring the last of the press conference's complimentary wine case.

Tragically, the crime spree ended at the site of esteemed skater Kirilova's death during her famous "Go-Go-Whip" routine. The sniper in the case was never identified, nor were the "dark-haired dastardlies" -- as the Basque press has taken to calling them.

Though no crimes have been committed in days, authorities still believe the two headliners of the spree are at large, with only a disappointing description and an eerie thought by Beauvais in the police department's favor.

"If you ask me, the (suspects) kind of resemble those old disgraced samurai whose masters had died -- what'd they call them, Ronin ... Ronan ... Ronjun?" Beauvais muttered as he exited.

Associated Press reporters John Cocktoasten and John "Stumpy" Pepys also contributed to this report.

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