Jobless Italian shoots two policemen after failure to strike politicians

Jobless gunman who 'wanted to shoot politicians' wounded two officers while new cabinet was being sworn in at palace

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 April, 2013, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 April, 2013, 3:21am

Two Italian police officers were shot outside the prime minister's office in Rome today by a lone gunman while the country's new premier, Enrico Letta, was being sworn in across town, police said.

The gunman had acted out of anger with politicians, one of the prosecutors working on the case said.

"His intention was to strike politicians," deputy Rome prosecutor Pierfilippo Laviani said.

Laviani said the "desperate" gunman had "lost work, had lost everything" and "wanted to shoot politicians, but given that he couldn't reach any, he shot the Carabinieri" police at the edge of Chigi Square.

The man, identified as Luigi Preiti from the southern region of Calabria, wearing a jacket and tie started shouting "Shoot me! Shoot me!" and opened fire on the officers without warning, witnesses told SKY TG24 television.

Preiti was subdued by police and taken into custody without a shot being fired by the officers.

A woman passer-by who was lightly injured was admitted to hospital for a brief stay, Italian media said.

Preiti did not have a criminal record, Italian news agency Ansa reported.

According to his brother, Preiti was jobless and separated from his wife, but had never suffered from mental illness. An officer, Giuseppe Giangrande, was shot in the neck and may have suffered damage to his spinal column, while the second policeman had a broken leg, according to SKY.

An aide to Foreign Minister Emma Bonino told reporters at the presidential palace that the new cabinet members were kept briefly inside for security reasons until it was clear there was no immediate danger.

The new interior minister, Angelino Alfano, went to the Rome hospital to visit the policeman who was hurt in the neck. Sky said Preiti was also taken to the hospital. He was seen with a brace around his neck, indicating he might have been injured.

The shooting sparked memories of the 1970s and 1980s, when violence plagued Italy during a time of high political tensions between right- and left-wing blocs.

The new cabinet ministers, unaware of the attack, were seen smiling in a group photo as news of the shooting broke.

"The news arrived after the swearing-in," said Dario Franceschini, a new minister.

"Premier Letta is following the situation," he said.

Metal fencing closed off Chigi Square, which flanks Via del Corso, one of Rome's most popular streets. The public were being allowed to cross the square after showing identification. It was unclear if the assailant had asked permission to enter the square.

Rome was yesterday jammed with tourists as well as residents enjoying a warm sunny morning on the last day of an extended weekend.

The shooting cast a pall over the swearing-in of a government meant to bring fresh hope to a country mired in recession after two months of bitter post-election deadlock.

Letta, 46, went to Palazzo Chigi after the shooting and held his first cabinet meeting there.

He was sworn in at the Quirinale presidential palace earlier after forging an alliance with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi that ended a two-month stalemate and signaled a generational shift in the country's political environment.

Bloomberg, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse