Following the bloody Charlie Hebdo killings, gunmen Cherif Kouachi, 32, Said Kouachi, 34, and their alleged associate, Amedy Coulibaly, were on the run from police. The two Kouachi brothers ended up at Dammartin Print Works, where they took refuge from the police.
According to a report by the Independent, the Kouarchis hijacked a Peugeot near the small town of Crepy-en-Valois and were pursued for 30 miles along the N2 trunk road by gendarmerie, a military force that is charged with police duties, before taking refuge in the print works. Law enforcement surrounded the print works building but did not enter as the Kouarchis brothers said they would kill their hostage, owner Michel Catalano, if police entered the building.
However, the Kouarchis brothers did not know that the police had an inside informant in the building with them. As the brothers approached the print works with rocket launchers and guns, Catalano told a graphic designer, Lilian Lapere, to hide in a cardboard box. Lapere did just that and was secretly texting the police from the box.
Catalano told the Telegraph that the brothers were not aggressive with him and that he tried to diffuse the situation as much as possible by remaining kind and polite to the gunmen. Caralano said, in an effort to ensure the men did not find Lapere, even offered to make the brothers coffee. After making them coffee, Caralano said he dressed one of the brother’s wounds.
Though Catalano remained calm and the brothers were very “polite” throughout the whole ordeal, he told the Daily Mail he still feared for his life from the time the brothers entered his print works.
“I brought them the coffee and they were very respectful, calling me Monsieur, like gentlemen.”
Catalano said that the men turned away two other potential hostages by first allowing his factory manager to leave on Catalano’s request and when they turned away a salesman who came to the office for a business appointment. Incredibly, the salesman even shook hands with both Catalano and one of the terrorists, thinking he was an armed police officer in his bulletproof vest. However, it was clear to the salesman that the man was a terrorist when he shook his hand and the brother replied, “We don’t kill civilians.”
After the salesman and factory manager had left the building, Catalano made light-hearted jokes with the Kouarchis brothers. He even joked that Stephan had left the door open, which would cost him too much money.
“I made a joke because Stefan had left the door open — I closed it and said we wanted to keep the heat in because it costs money. I was trying to be calm.”
Surprisingly, after the two other men had been dismissed, the brothers told Catalano to call the police and let them know he was being held captive. Once the police arrived, Catalano asked if he could leave. However, the gunmen told him that if he did the police would probably shoot him, so they told him to stay but assured him that he wouldn’t die.
It was at this point that Catalano noticed one of the brother’s injuries. He retrieved his first aid kit and dressed the gunman’s wounds. After caring for the terrorist, he asked again if he could leave. This time they said yes and allowed Catalano to walk out the door unharmed. At no point did Catalano tell the gunmen that there was another employee hiding in the building. He was scared that once they knew Lapere was feeding police information, they would kill him. Therefore, he decided to leave the building and not disclose information about the hiding graphic designer.
After Catalano exited the building, the gunman prepared to die as martyrs. They came out of the print works with guns blazing, but were immediately mowed down by a stream of police fire.