The Champs-Elysees gunman who shot and killed a police officer just days before France's presidential election was detained in February for threatening police but then freed, two officials told The Associated Press on Friday. He was also convicted in 2003 of attempted homicide in the shootings of two police officers.
The French government pulled out all the stops to protect Sunday's vote as the attack deepened France's political divide.
"Nothing must hamper this democratic moment, essential for our country," Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said after a high-level meeting Friday that reviewed the government's already heightened security plans for the two-round presidential vote that begins Sunday.
"Barbarity and cowardice struck Paris last night," the prime minister declared, appealing for national unity and for people "not to succumb to fear."
Investigators believe at this stage that the gunman, 39-year-old Frenchman Karim Cheurfi, was alone in killing one police officer and wounding two others and a female German tourist on Thursday night, a French official who discussed details of the investigation with the AP said on condition of anonymity.
The attack came less than 72 hours before the polls open.
Police shot and killed Cheurfi after he opened fire on a police van on Paris' most famous boulevard. Investigators found a pump-action shotgun and knives in his car. Cheurfi's identity was confirmed from his fingerprints.