When Mamoudou Gassama saw a child dangling from a balcony, he immediately ran up to the building, scaled four floors and then lifted the 4-year-old boy to safety. The 22-year-old undocumented migrant from Mali, who was in the area to watch a football match, didn't think about the risk of deportation.
"I like children, I would have hated to see him getting hurt in front of me. I ran and I looked for solutions to save him and, thank god, I scaled the front of the building to the balcony," he told CNN affiliate BFM TV.
The heart-stopping moment was captured in a now-viral video, which shows Gassama climbing the Paris apartment building in seconds amid cheers from the crowd.
It was only when Gassama got to the apartment and saved the child that he realized what had just happened and was shaken up.
A man and woman in the apartment next door could see the child from their balcony. The man grabbed the child's right arm but couldn't pull the boy up because of the divider between balconies. He told Le Parisien that the child, who was thought to have fallen two floors before grabbing onto the fourth-floor balcony, was bleeding from his toe and had a torn nail. He added that the child was even wearing Spider-Man flip-flops.
The incident occurred Saturday around 8 p.m., when the father left the young child alone to go shopping. He was playing Pokemon Go once he left the shop, according to French prosecutor Francois Molins. The child was living with his father, who worked in the city. His mother, who lives on Réunion Island, and the couple's second child were going to join them in June.
The boy is currently in the care of social services. His father was detained overnight and will appear in court in September. He faces up to two years in prison for abandoning his parental responsibilities and a fine of €30,000 (about $35,000).
As for Gassama, the hero now known as Paris' "Spider-Man" met French President Emmanuel Macron in the Elysee Palace yesterday. Gassama was presented with a certificate and medal for his act of bravery and devotion, signed by the police prefect. The French president also said he will be made a French citizen and has been offered a job by the Paris fire brigade.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also thanked Gassama for his bravery.
"He explained to me that he arrived from Mali a few months ago with the dream of making a life for himself here," Hidalgo wrote on Twitter Sunday. "I replied that his heroic act is an example for all citizens and that the city of Paris will obviously be keen to support him in his efforts to settle in France."