PARIS — A gunman killed three police officers who were responding early Wednesday to reports of a domestic violence episode in central France, the authorities said, a rare outburst of deadly violence against French security forces. The gunman was later found dead.
The officers had been called to the scene in an isolated hamlet near Saint-Just, a small town in the Puy-de-Dôme region of France, about 50 miles southeast of Clermont-Ferrand, to help a woman who was being beaten by her partner, according to the French Interior Ministry.
The man shot at the officers when they arrived, killing a first officer, identified by the ministry as Arno Mavel, 21, and wounding a second one in the thigh. The man also fired at two other officers as they approached the house. Both of them, identified by the ministry as Cyrille Morel, 45, and Rémi Dupuis, 37, were killed.
The attack on the gendarmes prompted swift condemnation. “To protect us, our forces risk their lives,” President Emmanuel Macron said of the officers on Twitter. “They are our heroes.”
The officers were members of France’s gendarmerie — the force that oversees smaller towns and rural or suburban areas.
Police reinforcements quickly cordoned off the area. The suspect, who has not been identified, was found dead several hours later, the French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said on Twitter. Mr. Darmanin was expected to arrive in the Puy-de-Dôme region later on Wednesday.
François Chautard, the mayor of Saint-Just, told the BFM TV news channel that the officers had been shot after arriving at the scene of a domestic dispute, and that the gunman then set the house on fire.
“The house is totally destroyed,” Mr. Chautard said.
The Interior Ministry said that the “tragic circumstances of these deaths remind us, once again, of the risks that gendarmes and police officers are exposed to when they carry out their daily duties.”
Twenty-five French police officers and gendarmes were killed in the line of duty in 2018, up from 15 in 2017, according to official statistics. Thirteen of those deaths in 2018 were directly related to security operations.