Jan. 3 (Bloomberg) -- A gunman shot dead three people and injured another two in a mountain village in southern Switzerland, police said.
Officers were alerted to the shootings in Daillon, near the city of Sion in the Valais canton, at 8:50 p.m. yesterday by a caller, who reported seeing “several wounded people lying on the ground,” the regional police force said in a statement posted on its website late yesterday.
An elite police unit deployed to the village opened fire on the gunman after he threatened them, later arresting him, according to the statement. He was shot in the chest and remained on life support until the afternoon, when he recovered enough to breathe unassisted, and will be questioned at the earliest opportunity, cantonal authorities said later on their website.
“The 33-year-old man was armed with an old army rifle and a shotgun of the type commonly used for shooting birds,” Valais police spokesman Markus Rieder said in a telephone interview today. “All three killed were women. The injured were both men.”
The women, 32, 54 and 79 years old, died at the scene and the two injured men were hospitalized, Rieder said. The shooter knew the victims and is not related to them, the Valais cantonal government said today in an online statement.
He had been drinking heavily before the deadly spree, the 20 Minuten website reported, citing a local cafe owner, Marie-Paul Udry, who turned off the lights at his premises and prevented diners from leaving as shots echoed in the street.
The 32-year-old victim was the partner of one of the wounded men, aged 33, who remains in “life-threatening” condition with a wounded pelvis, and the two have young children, according to the canton. A second injured man, 63 years old, is in “stable” condition after an operation on his shoulder, it said.
“We do not yet know the motive of the killer,” according to the statement. Police did not name the attacker.
An eyewitness, Nathalie Frizzi, was walking her dog when she heard the shots, a local newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, reported.
“There were people running everywhere,” she was quoted as saying. “I thought children were shooting at cats and shouted at them to stop. I’m still shocked to think I might have been hit.”
Police had previously confiscated weapons from the man in 2005, when he was placed in a psychiatric ward, the Valais administration said.
“The entire population is shaken,” Christophe Germanier, president of the municipal district of Conthey that Daillon is part of, said in an interview with Swiss radio broadcaster RTS.
Switzerland had the world’s third-highest rate of gun ownership in 2007, with an average of 45.7 weapons per 100 people, compared with 88.8 in the U.S., according to a report by the Small Arms Survey published that year.
There were 241 deaths in Switzerland by shooting in 2010, compared with 408 in 2001, according to the most recent data available from the Swiss government. Ninety-two percent of those deaths in 2010 were suicides.
In February 2011, Swiss voters rejected in a referendum a proposal to ban citizens from keeping guns at home and require all guns to be registered.
To contact the reporter on this story: Leigh Baldwin in Zurich at firstname.lastname@example.org