'Shoot me!': Failed suicide-by-cop gunfight in Rome mars govt's inauguration (VIDEO)
The exchange of fire happened while the new government was being sworn in, but it is unclear whether the attack was directly linked to the formation of the Cabinet.
One of the two police officers standing guard outside the prime
minister’s office was shot in the neck, while the other was shot in
the leg. Neither guard received life-threatening injuries. A
pregnant woman passing by as the shootout commenced was also
slightly injured, although it remains unclear if she was grazed by
a bullet or was hurt in the ensuing panic.
An officer told Reuters that the gunman was from the region of
Calabria and tried to coerce police into opening fire on him,
shouting “shoot me, shoot me!" to other police nearby before
being tackled to the ground and taken away.
Newly-appointed deputy prime minister Angelino Alfano described the shootout as a “tragic act of an unemployed man who wanted to commit suicide.”
Others saw a political motive in the act, with deputy Rome prosecutor Pierfilippo Laviani telling reporters after the shooting: "His intention was to strike politicians.”
The gunman, identified as Luigi Preiti, is in his forties, unemployed and separated from his wife. He hails from Calabria, the southern region which has long been plagued by high unemployment and organized crime.
The mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno issued a statement following the attack saying that the incident was not an act of terrorism. He also stressed that the current political climate had increased tensions in Italy.
As the shootout took place, a new Italian government dubbed the 'grand coalition' was sworn in at the presidential Quirinal Palace. The newly inaugurated cabinet is headed by Enrico Letta from the Democratic Party (PD) and includes members of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party (PDL).
Berlusconi himself will not be a minister, though one of his closest political allies, Angelino Alfano, will be deputy prime minister and interior minister in the new government.
The swearing in of the 21 new government ministers has ended months of political stalemate in the Italian cabinet following inconclusive elections in February which left Italy's main political parties at loggerheads.