A police officer shot and wounded a man who attacked him with a hammer near Notre Dame Cathedral on Tuesday, Paris police and a police union official say. Union official Cedric Michel says a man armed with a hammer went after the cop, who was patrolling the esplanade in front of the world-famous cathedral known for its Gothic architecture and gargoyles. Michel said the attacker was "neutralized" by police. A police spokesperson tells the AP that the officer used his weapon to shoot the assailant and that the attacker was being taken to a hospital. The incident happened around 4:30pm local time. Large numbers of police cars filled the area on the Ile de la Cite in the Seine River in the center of Paris as authorities urged people to stay away from the area.
Witnesses described a dramatic police operation in the tourist-filled area. Lawrence Langner, a 73-year-old American visiting the neighborhood just across the river from the cathedral, says he suddenly heard a commotion and two detonations like gunshots. Meanwhile, journalist David Metreau, who says his office overlooks the square that fronts Notre Dame, tweeted there were two blasts that sounded like shots. He posted a photo of a person lying seemingly inert on the ground. Police said the operation was over about an hour after it started. Paris remains under high security after a string of Islamic extremist attacks in recent years, including several targeting police officers and security personnel. In April, an attacker opened fire on a police van on Paris' Champs Elysees, killing one and gravely wounding two others. The attacker was shot dead by police. (Read more Notre Dame Cathedral stories.)