DakarWorld Rally-Raid Championship

3 officers arrested following Jonathan Savel’s death in police raid

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Credit: Rally Zone

In the wake of a botched police raid on Monday morning that claimed the life of Federal Police Special Units (DSU) agent and rally raid competitor Jonathan Savel, three police officers were arrested and charged by the Charleroi Public Prosecutor’s Office for various offences including some in connection to the case.

All three were charged with forgery of documents and embezzlement, breach of trust, violation of professional secrecy, unlawful access of police databases, and weapons violations. One of them also received a criminal conspiracy charge; he was named by two separate investigations by different departments, prompting them to unify their operations, though the office did not confirm if he had any ties to the suspect.

Savel was killed when he and his DSU POSA (“Protection, Observation, Support, Arrest”) team were leading a house raid in Lodelinsart, pursuing a suspect wanted for trafficking arms and drugs. After entering, the fifteen-man group spotted a woman and began interacting with her when the assailant—whom the office said was awakened by the police’s arrival—began firing at them from behind a door. Savel and two other agents were hit five times in the armpits, collarbones, and legs, all body parts that were not protected by bulletproof armour; one officer suffered critical injuries but his condition has improved since, while the other received minor wounds. Reinforcements circled the building and entered from behind, where they discovered the shooter was injured, and he died in hospital.

He was the fifth DSU member to die in the line of duty after Paul Peeters (died 1987), Jozef Grauwels (1990), Marcel Coopmans (1996), and Pierre Goblet (1999), and the first in such a mission.

Three weeks before the operation, Savel competed in the World Rally-Raid Championship‘s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, where he finished twenty-third in Rally2 and fifth among Malle Moto riders. It was his second start in the series after placing fifty-fourth at the 2023 Rallye du Maroc. Both races were part of his quest to make the Dakar Rally in 2025.

“Heartbroken to learn about the passing of Jonathan Savel,” reads a statement from the ADDC. “Jonathan completed his first ever Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge this year in the toughest category, the Malle Moto, and became part of the elite of riders to have succeeded in such a demanding quest.

“Jonathan was a member of the Belgian Police’s Special Forces, and he lost his life in the front, while performing his duty. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones at this very sad time.”

Belgian police paid tribute to Savel with a moment of silence in Antwerp on Wednesday while his funeral took place in Basècles on Saturday. Annelies Verlinden, the Belgian Interior Minister, posthumously awarded him the Civic Decoration at the start of the ceremony. Representatives of Belgium’s King Philippe and the Defence Ministry, personnel from the DSU’s French and Dutch counterparts GIGN and Dienst Speciale Interventies and the Grand Ducal Police of Luxembourg, and the Belgian Special Forces Group were also in attendance.

“It is that memory of you that we want to keep, your smile and your commitment,” began Savel’s sister at the service. “On Monday, the unthinkable was announced to us. You lost your life in the line of duty, this job of your dreams.”

Speaking to the DSU, she continued, “We are aware of the risks you take every day. We have it, and you paid the price with the loss of our brother, your brother-in-arms.”

Savel, 36 years old, was the father of two daughters. He joined the police force in 2012 before entering the DSU in 2016.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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