PARIS — The police in France are hunting for a customer accused of fatally shooting a waiter at a restaurant near Paris because, witnesses said, he was upset over the wait for his sandwich.
The killing took place on Friday around 9:15 p.m. at a pizza and sandwich restaurant named Le Mistral in Noisy-Le-Grand, east of Paris, the police said. The customer, who has not been identified, had been waiting several minutes for a sandwich — it was unclear what kind — and became angry because he thought it had not been prepared quickly enough, restaurant employees and other witnesses told the local news media.
The man insulted the 28-year-old waiter before producing a 9-millimeter handgun, shooting and seriously wounding him in the shoulder, according to the news network BFMTV. Colleagues who witnessed the shooting called the police. Paramedics arrived quickly but were unable to revive the waiter.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The gunman fled the restaurant and was still on the run as of Sunday. A police spokesman, Raphaël Biron from the Paris Police Prefecture, confirmed the events but declined to provide further details because the investigation was continuing.
Paris’ suburbs are replete with many fast-food restaurants, and waiters often work under pressure to deliver customers’ orders quickly and efficiently. But most killings in restaurants have been tied to score-settling and feuds, the authorities said.
In 2018, the French police recorded 845 homicides nationwide, a slight increase from 2017. France’s intentional homicide rate in 2016, the most recent year for which United Nations figures offer a comparison, was about a quarter of that in the United States.
On Saturday, stunned residents and shopkeepers gathered outside the pizza and sandwich restaurant after the killing. One woman told reporters that the restaurant, which opened a few months ago, had been quiet and previously had no problems.
But one resident told BFMTV that he had witnessed disputes in the restaurant and that people who drank alcohol could often be seen hanging around.
Amid growing competition from other global tourist destinations, France over the years has started campaigns to burnish its image, including improving its reputation for gruff dining experiences. Paris’s tourism board, for example, had begun a charm offensive by handing out thousands of pamphlets to cafes, hotels, shops and taxi ranks titled “Do You Speak Touriste?” in a bid to make travelers feel more welcome.
But the shooting in Noisy-Le-Grand had all the markings of a singular burst of violence. It is part of the Seine-Saint-Denis department, on the outskirts of Paris, where poor social conditions have often led to crimes and social unrest.
News of the killing drew angry reactions on Twitter, including from Jean Messiha, a top member of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, who linked the shooting to “mass immigration.”
But Sylvain Thézard, chief of staff of Noisy-Le-Grand’s mayor, pushed back at any link between the killing and immigration.
“We are shocked by the comments on social networks that make a lot of confusion,” he said. “Crime rates are declining in our city. This murder is by no means the result of a deeper problem. It’s nothing but sad news.”