The victims of Tuesday’s attack in a Belgian city were identified, after a prison inmate on 48-hour leave — and indirectly mentioned in state security reports on radicalization — grabbed the service weapons of two women officers and then fatally shot them and a bystander, a 22-year-old teacher.
Liège Police Chief Christian Beaupere named the two female officers as 45-year-old Lucile Garcia and 53-year-old Soraya Belkacemi.
He said Belkacemi was the mother of 13-year-old twin daughters who earlier lost their father, also a police officer.
As Fox News previously reported, Prime Minister Charles Michel said the suspect, Benjamin Herman, a Belgian national born in 1982, appeared in security reports “in notes that did not primarily target him, but others or other situations.”
“Different services considered that, based on the elements they had, there was no reason to give him such a qualification,” he said, adding the attack will involve, at least initially, “an investigation for terrorism.”
Garcia got married to her boyfriend of 14 years a month ago, and the pair had just become grandparents, their colleagues told Laaste Nieuws. About 10 years ago, The New York Post reported, she lost her 21-year-old son, Axel, in a car crash.
The third victim, Cyril Vangriecken, had studied at the Athénée Royale d’Herstal school and was a big fan of pétanque, a bowling game similar to bocce, The Post reported.
His father told BFMTV his son thought only of his studies: “My son was a perfect child. When I say perfect, it was perfect.”
Tuesday’s attack unfolded outside a cafe in the eastern city of Liège when the assailant crept up on Garcia and Belkacemi from behind and stabbed them repeatedly.
“He then took their weapons. He used the weapons on the officers, who died,” the Liège prosecutor’s spokesman, Philippe Dulieu, told reporters.
Dulieu said the attacker then shot and killed Vangriecken in his mother’s car that was leaving a parking lot outside a nearby high school. The Mail reported that witnesses saw Vangriecken’s mother sobbing and covered in blood after her son was targeted in their Ford Fiesta.
The attacker then took two women hostage inside the school before confronting police massed outside.
“He came out firing at police, wounding a number of them, notably in the legs. He was shot dead,” the spokesman said, adding that the hostages escaped unharmed.
Beaupere said “the goal of the attacker was to target the police.”
Four other officers were wounded in the attack, one seriously with a severed femoral artery.
Justice Minister Koen Geens described the attacker as a repeat offender who had been incarcerated since 2003, and was due for release in two years.
“He certainly was not someone who could clearly be qualified as radicalized. Otherwise he would have been known as such by all services,” Geens said.
Liège is an industrial city located near the German border. It was the scene of a 2011 shooting when a gunman killed four people and wounded more than 100, according to Reuters.
Belgian police and military have been on alert since suicide bombers killed 32 people at the Brussels airport and subway system in 2016.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.