A gunman opened fire on police on the Champs Elysées on Thursday night leaving one officer dead and two others seriously injured.
In the panic that followed the rattle of gunfire on Paris's famed Champs Elysees on Thursday, tourists and locals dashed for their lives, took refuge where they could and hoped the bullets wouldn't find them.
“People were running, bumping into each other and crashing into tables”, said a 39-year-old woman who had been dining in a restaurant off the boulevard bustling with visitors.
Hundreds of shoppers, diners and tourists enjoying the attractions and restaurants in the area around the world's most famous shopping boulevard were caught up in the panic that followed.
Nobody understood what was happening, “especially the foreign tourists,” said the woman who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The waiters told us to get out the back of the restaurant, but there was no exit so we had to hide in a back courtyard,” she said, as the lights of dozens of emergency vehicles flashed.
Isabel, a 34-year-old Australian tourist, was unable to reach her lodging because of the police lines.
“I just want to go home,” she said.
Tomas, a 34-year-old office worker told The Local: “I was in an office in front of where it happened and I heard an automatic weapon, at least that's what I figured.
“The sound was very quick and very loud. I figured it was an auto or a semi-automatic weapon – maybe a Kalashnikov.
“I thought immediately that it was an attack. We were locked in the office and we learned it was indeed a policeman that was targeted. I saw another policeman through the window who was shooting a weapon with a laser on top.
“We were on the fifth floor so we were not scared because we have a code at the entrance. But we had to wait a long time – and some people were a bit scared because it was so close. My colleagues were not so much afraid in general, there was more of a feeling of “oh no, not again.”
“I heard shots and I went to see what it was. I saw two bodies on the ground and people screaming, running everywhere,” said Mehdi, a communications consultant. “I was afraid. I left. I didn't even pay the bill!”
People run away after the shooting. Photo: AFP
Another witness, who was not named, told BFM TV he saw a man get out of a car holding a Kalashnikov.
“When he opened fire we ran into the shop and ran upstairs. We looked out of the window and saw police officers shoot him dead on the street,” he said.
A shopkeeper on the avenue told the TV channel: “At first we thought it was firecrackers but then we realized it was a shooting and everyone ran in panic. People were crying,” one shopkeeper told BFM TV.
“The area was cleared really quickly.”
A man named Cyril, aged 40, told Le Parisien newspaper: “I was at the corner of Marks & Spencer and Zara waiting in my car. I saw a man all dressed in black about 10 meters from a police car. He looked like he was about to ask for information then he pulled out a Kalashnikov and opened fire.”
Cyril immediately got out of the area in his car, but said it was clear the man intended to target the police.
Maxime, 32, told the newspaper that he was in the cinema at the time and the film was stopped so the audience could be told what had happened.
“They said we could stay in the cinema but after half an hour people preferred to leave and left via a side exit,” he said.