The father of a four-year-old boy who was rescued as he dangled from a balcony in Paris by a migrant from Mali was out playing Pokemon Go while his son almost fell from the building, prosecutors say.
Hero rescuer Mamoudou Gassama, 22, was dubbed “Spider-Man” after he scaled five floors of the apartment building on Saturday evening and saved the child’s life.
French president Emmanuel Macron said Mr Gassama will be given French citizenship for his heroic act, and will be offered a job as a firefighter.
The boy’s father has been detained for alleged parental neglect after leaving his child alone in the apartment, French media reported.
Prosecutor François Mollins said the father had left the boy to go to the shops, and was playing the virtual reality smartphone game Pokemon Go on his way back to the apartment.
“He took a long time to return home because he had decided to play the smartphone game Pokemon Go when he left the store,” said Mr Mollins.
“He is devastated because he realises what he did, and the tragic consequences that it could have led to.”
The prosecutor added that the window of the apartment had been left open and there was no safety grill to prevent the child from falling.
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Mr Gassama was walking past the building with his friends on his way to watch the Champions League final when he spotted the child dangling from the balcony.
He climbed up five floors, pulling himself up from balcony to balcony, and whisked the boy to safety as a crowd screamed at the foot of the building in Paris’ northern 18th district.
Mr Macron said Mr Gassama will be given citizenship if he wants it, and a job as a firefighter.
“Bravo,” Mr Macron said to Mr Gassama during a one-on-one meeting in a gilded room of the presidential Elysée Palace that ended with the awarding of a medal from the prefecture for “courage and devotion”.
Mr Gassama said he has papers to legally stay in Italy, where he arrived in Europe after crossing the Mediterranean after a long, rough stay in Libya.
However, he wants to join his older brother, who has lived in France for decades.
Mr Gassama described how he saved the boy’s life. ”I ran. I crossed the street to save him,” he told Mr Macron.
He said he did not think twice, adding: “When I started to climb, it gave me courage to keep climbing. Thank God I saved him.”
Mr Gassama said was shaking with fear when he took the child into the apartment.
“I was trembling,” he told Mr Macron.
The president said: “Because this is an exceptional act… we are obviously, today, going to regularise all your papers, and if you wish we will start naturalisation procedures so you can become French.”
Mr Gassama told Mr Macron that he arrived in Italy in 2014 after more than a year in Libya, where he was arrested and beaten.
The French president is toughening the nation’s approach to immigration, and stressed that not all who make the treacherous journey to Europe can be welcomed, but that Mr Gassama’s actions were admirable.
“You saved a child. Without you, no one knows what would have become of him,” the president said. “You need courage and the capability to do that.”
Working as a firefighter corresponds with his skills, Mr Macron said, and opened the door for him to join.
“You have become an example because millions have seen you”, the president said.