PARIS (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — Police in Paris said they stopped an attack on police on the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées Monday afternoon.
Heavily armed officers blocked off a section of the popular avenue and bomb squad officers were sent to the scene of the famed shopping district as the investigation continues.
Authorities said a 31-year-old man deliberately rammed his car into a police vehicle, CBS2 reported. French officials said there were weapons and explosives in the trunk of the vehicle.
Cellphone video from a witness, Eugenio Morcillo, showed the car exploding into cloud of orange flames after slamming into the van.
The man later died. Police have not said how.
Paris police said neither gendarmes nor passers-by were injured.
Two police officials told The Associated Press that a handgun was found on the driver, who they said was badly burned after the vehicle exploded. They identified the man as a 31-year-old man from the Paris suburb of Argenteuil who had an “S” file, meaning he was flagged for links to extremism.
Eric Favereau, a journalist for Liberation newspaper who was driving a scooter behind the gendarmes, said he saw a car blocking the convoy’s path, then an implosion in the vehicle. Favereau wrote that the gendarmes smashed open the windows of the car while it was in flames and dragged out its occupant. Other gendarmes used fire extinguishers to put out the flames. The account didn’t say what happened to the occupant of the car afterward.
Visitors to a nearby Auguste Rodin exhibit were confined inside the Grand Palais exhibit hall for an hour after the incident.
Victoria Boucher and daughter Chrystel came in from the suburb of Cergy-Pontoise for a Paris visit and weren’t afraid to go to the famed avenue.
“We were better off inside than outside,” Chrystel said. But both agreed as the mother said, “unfortunately we now are used to this.”
“The show must go on,” the daughter said in English. “They won’t win.”
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters near the scene Monday that the man’s motives weren’t immediately clear.
Collomb said the current situation in France shows a new security law “is needed” and the measure would “maintain a high security level.”
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor has opened an investigation.
The Associated Press reported the suspect was known to police and had been flagged for possible links to extremism.
Police had earlier warned people to avoid the neighborhood, one of the French capital’s most popular tourist areas.
The incident comes months after an attacker defending the Islamic State group shot and killed a police officer on the Champs-Élysées in April, days before a presidential election, prompting an extensive security operation.
This was the fifth time this year that police forces have been targeted by attackers in and around Paris.
France is under a state of emergency after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)