ROME - In the very moments Italy's new coalition government was being sworn in, ending months of political paralysis in a country hoping to revive a bleak economy, a middle-aged unemployed bricklayer opened fire Sunday in the square outside the premier's office, seriously wounding two policemen, authorities said.
The alleged gunman from Calabria, a southern region plagued by joblessness and organized crime, told investigators he wanted to shoot politicians. But finding none in the square, he instead shot at Carabinieri paramilitary police.
A bullet pierced one of the policemen in the neck, passing through his spinal column, doctors said, adding it wasn't yet known if the 50-year-old officer would have any paralysis. The other one was shot in the leg and suffered a fracture.
The newly sworn in interior minister, Angelino Alfano, said a preliminary investigation indicated the shooting, which also slightly injured a pregnant bystander, amounted to a "tragic criminal gesture of a 49-year-old unemployed" man.
But the shooting was also a violent expression of social tensions in Italy, where unemployment is soaring, an increasing number of businesses are shutting their doors permanently and new political corruption scandals make headlines nearly every day.
Politicians described the attack as a disturbing call to fix Italy's economy.
Prosecutors identified the gunman as Luigi Preiti. Jobless, with a broken marriage and reportedly burdened by gambling debts he couldn't pay, Preiti had recently returned from Italy's affluent north, where he could no longer find work. He moved into his parents' home in Rosarno, a bleak Calabrian farm town where unemployment was already endemic before the last years of stagnation and recession sent youth unemployment soaring to nearly 40 percent nationwide.
His intended target was politicians, but with none in the square, he shot at the Carabinieri paramilitary police, Rome Prosecutor Pierfilippo Laviani told reporters, citing what he said Preiti told him when he questioned him.