Two officers shot as Italy's new government sworn in

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ROME -- Two military police officers and a passerby were shot and wounded Sunday in a crowded square outside the office of Italy's Prime Minister Enrico Letta and near the presidential palace, where his new government was being sworn in.

The shooting was broadcast live by the state broadcaster RAI, which had a television crew in the square in front of Palazzo Chigi, where the ministers were to go after the ceremony at the presidential palace. Italians who had tuned in to the swearing-in ceremony of the long-awaited government -- finally formed nine weeks after national elections -- watched the unfolding events.

What was supposed to be a day of celebration quickly turned into a national drama. The square in front of Palazzo Chigi was cordoned off, while ambulances and police cars blocked traffic in one of Rome's busiest downtown areas.

Inside the palace, the ceremony continued undisturbed; most of the ministers were not made aware of the shooting, which occurred about half a mile away, until after the ceremony was over.

A man, identified as Luigi Preiti, 49, who is unemployed and is from the Calabria region, was detained and accused of the shooting, the authorities said.

"I heard seven or eight shots," said Enrica Agostini, an RAI reporter who was in the square when the shooting occurred, describing the subsequent panic.

Doctors at Rome's Umberto I Polyclinic said Sunday evening that one of the military police officers, Giuseppe Giangrande, was shot in the neck and was in critical condition after undergoing an operation. The bullet injured his spinal column, causing "important damage," doctors said in a televised news conference, adding that they would not be able to discuss his prognosis for 72 hours.

The other officer, Francesco Negri, was shot in the leg, but his injuries were not life-threatening, officials said. A woman who was passing by was also hit but was not seriously injured, according to news reports.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said an investigation would be conducted but the incident appeared to be an "isolated gesture."

Mr. Alfano said the shooter had intended to commit suicide but told officers that he was unable to do so because he had run out of bullets. A prosecutor working on the investigation said Mr. Preiti had intended to target politicians.

"He's a man full of problems who has lost his job, he'd lost everything, he'd had to move back home, he was desperate," the prosecutor, Pierfilippo Laviani, told the news agency ANSA. Mr. Preiti had planned the attack 20 days ago, according to news media reports.

"He wanted to strike politicians, but when he couldn't reach them, so he shot the police," Mr. Laviani said.

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