PARIS — A gunman killed three police officers who were responding early Wednesday to reports of an episode of domestic violence in central France, the authorities said.
The officers had been called to the scene in an isolated hamlet near Saint-Just, a small town in the Puy-de-Dôme region of France, about 50 miles southeast of Clermont-Ferrand, to help a woman who was being beaten by her partner, according to the French Interior Ministry.
The man shot at the officers when they arrived, killing a first officer, identified by the ministry as Arno Mavel, 21, and wounding a second one in the thigh. The gunmen also opened fire at two other officers as they approached the house. Both of them, identified by the ministry as Cyrille Morel, 45, and Rémi Dupuis, 37, were killed.
The officers were members of France’s gendarmerie — the force that oversees smaller towns and rural or suburban areas.
Police reinforcements quickly cordoned off the area and the gendarmerie’s elite intervention squad was still seeking the shooter, who has not been identified.
“At this hour, operations are ongoing,” the interior ministry said. “Everything is being done to arrest the individual and protect the neighboring populations.”
François Chautard, the mayor of Saint-Just, told the BFM TV news channel that the officers had been shot after arriving at the scene of a domestic dispute, and that the gunman then set the house on fire.
“The house is totally destroyed by the fire,” Mr. Chautard said, adding of the suspect, “They don’t know if he is in the ruins or if he escaped.”
The Interior Ministry said in its statement that the “tragic circumstances of these deaths remind us, once again, of the risks that gendarmes and police officers are exposed to when they carry out their daily duties.”