In the neighbourhood where Mohamed Merah grew up, and was last seen joking with friends days after he had killed three French soldiers in a pair of shootings, the message to outsiders is clear: he was one of our own, no matter what he did.
But in Les Izards, the 1960s housing project where Merah, 23, felt most at home, the reaction to his rampage has been one of anxious defiance of outsiders trying to peer into what seems like a closed world, cut off from elegant downtown Toulouse by its poverty, by crime and, locals say, by racial discrimination.
“I'm going to tell you one thing: he was a kid from this neighbourhood and we support his family no matter what people say on TV,” said one middle-aged mother of Algerian origin who said she had known Merah when he was a child in Les Izards.
In Les Izards, there is evidence of earlier failures in policy, however, notably of Sarkozy's efforts to assuage the rage and resentment that fuelled an explosion of rioting across France in 2005 - and still simmers below the surface.
By one local account of a confrontation between youths and the authorities in the neighbourhood, after Merah was killed trying to escape a siege of his apartment, one young man was arrested after yelling at the police ranks: “My friend Mohamed is a real man - too bad he wasn't able to finish the job!”
Hatem Ben Ismail, who runs several community centres in the area and describes himself as the “go-to guy on Les Izards”, says he simply hesitates to discuss in public the mood among the youngsters he tries to help: “The situation with the young people,” he concluded, “is just too explosive.”