“He thought of these children as if they were his grandchildren”: a Portuguese man risks his life in the attack on a playground in Annecy

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Manuel da Ponte was accidentally stabbed and shot by police. He is now in hospital.

A 73-year-old Portuguese emigrant confronted the Syrian refugee who, knife in hand, stabbed four children in a playground in Annecy, in the French Alps, on Thursday. With gunshot wounds, he is hospitalized but “out of danger”.

The news was reported by French public broadcaster TF1 and confirmed by the Portuguese Foreign Ministry. “During this tragic event, a Portuguese citizen, who was trying to prevent the assailant from fleeing from the police, was seriously injured and is now out of danger. A word of profound thanks for this act of courage and bravery”, said the ministry headed by João Gomes Cravinho in a statement.

The hero of Annecy is Manuel da Ponte, a 73-year-old pensioner. While trying to stop the assailant, he was stabbed in the abdomen and accidentally shot by the police. He is in intensive care.

His recovery could take a long time. “Courage, Manuel”, wrote Thierry Disson, a French citizen with whom the Portuguese émigré worked in a gardening business, on Facebook.

The Portuguese Consulate General in Lyon is following the case with local authorities and the hospital. Manuel da Ponte divides his life between Casal da Ordem, Vermoil, a commune of Pombal, and France, where he has “three children and four or five grandchildren”, according to Cesaltina Santos, the same age, who was his classmate.

“I know him very well, we’re still a distant family. He’s an excellent person. He was here very recently, I think he went back to France last week. He comes here often. He has a family and land here, where he has a life,” said Cesaltina Santos. “I’m not surprised that he stood up to his attacker. He thought of those children as if they were his grandchildren. I’m sure he was scandalized by the situation,” she added.

The President of the Republic is also paying attention. “At the moment, the situation is stable, fortunately,” said Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, in Peso da Régua, where this Saturday he is presiding over the ceremonies for June 10, Portugal Day.

“He wanted to come between the attacker and a victim, he ended up being hit on the side of the police intervention and the attacker. More information is being gathered about him,” said the president.

The assailant, of Syrian origin, was married to a Swedish woman, from whom he has a three-year-old daughter and from whom he divorced last year.

Who is the “backpack hero” who frightened off the aggressor in the Annecy playground?

A Portuguese man “seriously injured” while trying to stop an attack in Annecy is “out of danger”.

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