ROME – An unemployed bricklayer shot two Italian policemen in a crowded square outside the premier’s office Sunday just as Italy’s new government was being sworn in, investigators said.
The gunman’s intended target was politicians but none were in the square so he shot at the Carabinieiri paramilitary police, Rome Prosecutor Pierfilippo Laviani told reporters, citing what he said were the suspect’s own words.
Mired in recession and suffering from soaring unemployment, Italy has been in political paralysis since an inconclusive February election. Social and political tensions have been running high among voters divided between center-left, conservative and anti-government political parties.
Sunday was supposed to be a hopeful day when the debt-ridden nation finally got new government to solve its many problems. But shots rang out in Piazza Colonna near a busy shopping and strolling area shortly after 11:30 a.m. just as Premier Enrico Letta and his new ministers were taking their oaths at the Quirinal presidential office about a half mile away.
The suspected gunman, dressed in a dark business suit, was immediately wrestled to the ground by police outside Chigi Palace, which houses the premier’s office and other government offices.
Laviani identified the alleged assailant as Luigi Preiti, a 49-year-old from Calabria, an agricultural area plagued by organized crime and chronic unemployment.
Laviani said Preiti, who was taken to the hospital for bruises, confessed to the shooting and didn’t appear mentally unbalanced.
“He is a man full of problems, who lost his job, who lost everything,” the prosecutor said. “He was desperate. In general, he wanted to shoot at politicians, but given that he couldn’t reach any, he shot at the Carabinieri” paramilitary police.
One policemen who was shot in the neck was in critical condition. The other, shot in the leg, suffered a fracture, doctors said.
The 46-year-old Letta had produced a coalition deal only a day ago between two bitter political enemies – his center-left forces and the conservative bloc of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi. Letta will speak to Parliament today, laying out his strategy to reduce joblessness while still sticking to the austerity measures needed to keep the eurozone’s No. 3 economy from descending into a sovereign debt crisis. He will then face confidence votes.