On May 26th, a video posted to Twitter showed undocumented Malian immigrant Mamoudou Gassama climbing several stories of a building in Paris’ 18th arrondissement and rescuing a four-year-old child dangling from a balcony. “I saw all these people shouting, and cars sounding their horns. I climbed up like that and, thank God, I saved the child,” Gassama said afterward, according to the AFP. After the rescue, Gassama met with French president Emmanuel Macron, who thanked him warmly for his heroic act. Invoking an old civil code, Macron said he would grant Gassama French citizenship. (Macron also said in an Instagram comment that the “Paris fire brigade would be keen to welcome him to their ranks,” which sounds a bit like a job offer; Gassama has reportedly taken a 10-month internship with the Paris fire and rescue service.)
Ce jeune est un véritable héros !! Un acte héroïque ! pic.twitter.com/VYr01BCUdI— Billal RIGHI (@BillalRighi) May 26, 2018
The story has become viral international news, largely focusing on Gassama. Today, however, it emerged that the child’s father had gone on a grocery run and was playing Pokémon Go when the incident occurred. “He took a long time to return home because he had decided to play the smartphone game Pokémon Go when he left the store,” French prosecutor Francois Mollins told ABC News. “He is devastated because he realizes what he did, and the tragic consequences that it could have led to.”
According to an interview with CNN-affiliate BFM-TV, Molins said the child’s father faces up to two years in prison for leaving the child unsupervised, which is “failure to meet parental obligations,” in French legal code. He was reportedly arrested but has been released pending trial, which is scheduled for September. The child’s mother was visiting family on France’s Réunion Island when the event unfolded.
While Gassama’s actions were unquestionably heroic, under a new immigration bill working its way through parliament, the Malian immigrant would have been marked for deportation. “In his conversation with Mr Gassama, President Macron made clear that had it not been for his chance encounter with a badly supervised child on a hot day, Mr Gassama himself would have been on that list,” BBC reported.