Groups of young people clashed with French police in Nantes after a 22-year-old man was shot by an officer during a police check.
Cars were burned, petrol bombs were thrown, a shopping centre was set alight and a library and several buildings were damaged in the Breil neighbourhood in the early hours of Wednesday.
The police watchdog has opened an investigation into the circumstances of the man’s shooting. Johanna Rolland, the Socialist mayor of Nantes, called for clarity on the death and said any investigation must take place independently and with full transparency.
The local police chief, Jean-Christophe Bertrand, said the incident happened at 8.30pm when police stopped a car.
The identity of the driver was unclear and officers received orders to bring the driver to the police station, he added. The driver then reversed his car, hit and slightly injured a police officer.
“One of his colleagues then fired, hitting the young man, who unfortunately died,” Bertrand said.
Police sources confirmed the man was wounded during a police check after he “refused to comply” with officers’ requests. He was hit in the carotid artery and declared dead on arrival at hospital, police sources said.
Steven, 24, who lives in the area, told Agence France-Presse he had heard explosions and went to investigate. “I saw everything burning. There were fires in the bins, the cars. They were breaking everything. It lasted ages,” he said, adding that the situation later calmed down.
Violence also broke out in two other areas, Dervallières and Malakoff, where cars were set on fire. Local associations and youth workers came out to try to calm protesters.
The poor relationship between police and young people on French housing estates has been a flashpoint for more than a decade, and politicians have struggled to address the issue.
French police are regularly accused of using excessive force in poorer neighbourhoods, particularly against people from ethnic minorities.
The death in police custody in 2016 of a young black man, Adama Traoré, in Beaumont-sur-Oise outside Paris, and the slow reaction of authorities, has led to accusations of police violence and a state cover-up. An investigation is continuing.
In 2005, weeks of riots erupted after two teenagers were electrocuted when they hid in an substation in Clichy-sous-Bois, north of Paris, while being chased by police. Their deaths caused the worst rioting in France for 40 years. After a decade of legal battles by their families, police officers stood trial and were cleared of failing to help Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré.