PARIS (AP) — Some 1,500 visitors were cleared out of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after a man put a letter on the altar of the 850-year-old monument Tuesday, pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head.
It’s the first suicide in decades at the landmark site, Monsignor Patrick Jacquin, the cathedral’s rector, told The Associated Press.
“It’s unfortunate, it’s dramatic, it’s shocking,” Jacquin said. The motives for the suicide, and the contents of the man’s letter, were unclear.
In a message on her Twitter account, French far-right politician Marine Le Pen named the victim as a far-right author and historian. Police officials could not be reached to confirm the identification.
Police ushered people out of the cathedral after the shooting, Interior Minister Manuel Valls told reporters from the grand stone plaza in front of Notre Dame. “We call for compassion,” he said.
It’s highly unusual for the cathedral, visited by some 13 million people from around the world every year, to be evacuated.