Criminal Justice

Reports: Attorney facing disciplinary matter shot bar chairman, then himself, at French courthouse

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A French lawyer shot the local bar chairman at a courthouse office on Thursday morning, then turned the gun on himself, news reports say.

The gunman, Joseph Scipilliti, is dead, but Henrique Vannier survived being shot multiple times and is hospitalized in critical but stable condition, according to Agence France-Presse, the Daily Mail and RFI, a French radio network.

The courthouse is located in Melun, 30 miles outside of Paris. Deputy prosecutor Daniel Atzenhoffer said Vannier was shot in the chest, shoulder and hip in what he described as an attempted assassination, the Daily Mail reports. Scipilliti “then pointed the gun at his own head and fired, apparently dying immediately,” Atzenhoffer said.

The news articles, which also rely on information from unnamed sources including police, say Scipilliti was facing a suspension and Vannier had scheduled a meeting to discuss the disciplinary matter.

AFP reports that a local prosecutor, who is not named in the article, said Scipilliti had been facing disciplinary proceedings for a year over written and verbal threats he made to Vannier.

The dead attorney was known for defending anti-Islamic groups, AFP reports. “He was our first lawyer. Quite spontaneously, he offered to defend us,” said Pierre Cassen, who founded Secular Response, a right-wing group. He called Scipilliti “profoundly revolted by injustice” and “hot-blooded.”

A 240-page diary Scipilliti sent to several people and published online suggest the shooting of Vannier was premeditated, the French news agency says.

“Suicide on its own achieves nothing. A few days later no one will remember,” he wrote at one point. “To make people take notice, you must make a big noise.”

The diary calls Vannier an “ideal candidate” and says he “embodies everything I have fought since the beginning of my career.”

Scipilliti’s age is variously given as 63 or 64 and Vannier is either 42 or 43.

President Pascal Eydoux of the National Council of Barristers said in a French-language news release that he was shocked and stunned by news of the attack. Officials at the French ministry of justice and the court made similar statements.

Scipilliti was not searched before entering the courthouse because he is a lawyer who was familiar to the security staff, AFP reports.

“He was a polite person, who says hello, just as he did this morning,” one unnamed guard told AFP.

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