PARIS >> Paris police were searching for four occupants of a car that struck a taxi and tried to crash barricades set up near the Tour de France finish line on Sunday morning, drawing police fire hours before the arrival of cyclists and spectators. Police said they didn’t suspect terrorism.
Police found the car with bullet impacts not far from the Place de la Concorde where police opened fire, according to a police official and a ranking official close to the investigation. They asked not to be identified by name because the investigation was ongoing.
The car carried two men and two women, one of whom was injured on her upper body, the ranking official said, citing a witness at a hotel where the group sought a glass of water for her. It was not immediately clear if the woman had been hit by a bullet.
Tour de France officials said the race wouldn’t be affected by the incident.
Paris has been on edge since double attacks in January by Islamic extremists on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher grocery left 20 people dead, including the three attackers. Thousands of police and soldiers were deployed on the streets after the attack to protect sensitive sites and tourist attractions.
Police had opened fire at the Place de la Concorde, where the cyclists make their final triumphant rounds to conclude the race.
The police official said the investigation is “moving completely away from any terrorist lead or voluntary action against police.”
Police believe the car’s occupants had left one of the nightclubs in the ritzy neighborhood, were intoxicated, or had taken illegal substances, and didn’t want to submit to a police check, officials have said.
“The scenario is becoming clearer. The party ended badly,” the ranking official said.
Both officials cautioned that prudence was necessary as long as the car’s occupants were not found.
The ranking official said the car was first spotted on a street that feeds into the nearby Champs-Elysees, the famed avenue where thousands gather to watch the final laps of Tour de France, and where crowd control barriers were being put in place.
The car skirted the area and struck a taxi at the Place de la Concorde near the start of the Tuileries Gardens, the official said. Police officers then opened fire.
It is extremely rare for gunfire to be heard at the Place de la Concorde, a luxury tourist haunt across the Seine River from the National Assembly, the lower chamber of the French Parliament.
The official put the time of the incident at 7:50 a.m. (0550 GMT) — just under 10 hours before riders were due in the French capital.
Luc Poignant, spokesman for the SGP police union, said officers were finishing setting up the barricades for the race when the car tried to crash through the barriers. Officers opened fire on the car, which ultimately drove away, Poignant told the BFM television network.
No officers were injured, he said.
The final stage of the Tour de France began at 4:35 p.m. (1435 GMT; 10:35 a.m. EDT), leaving from Sevres, a town southwest of Paris. The riders finish the grueling race with 10 laps around the Champs-Elysees before finishing at Place de la Concorde.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in the Place de la Concorde and the Champs-Elysees for the race’s final leg.