A French police officer who offered himself up to an Islamic extremist gunman in exchange for a hostage died of his injuries, raising the death toll in the attack to four, and the officer was honored Saturday as a national hero of "exceptional courage and selflessness." Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame, 44, was among the first officers to respond to the attack on the supermarket in the south of France on Friday, the AP reports. Beltrame, who first took his place among the elite police special forces in 2003 and served in Iraq in 2005, had organized a training session in the Aude region in December for just such a hostage situation. At the time, he armed his officers with paintball guns, according to Depeche du Midi, the local newspaper.
"We want to be as close to real conditions as possible," he said then. But when he went inside the supermarket on Friday, he had given up his own weapon and volunteered himself in exchange for a female hostage. Unbeknownst to the Morocco-born captor, he left his cellphone on so police outside could hear what was happening in the store. They stormed the building when they heard gunshots, officials said. Beltrame was fatally wounded. His death raises the toll to four. The gunman was also killed, and 15 people were injured in the attack. "Arnaud Beltrame died in the service of the nation to which he had already given so much," says President Emmanuel Macron. "In giving his life to end the deadly plan of a jihadi terrorist, he fell as a hero."