MILAN – A man on trial for fraudulent bankruptcy opened fire in Milan's courthouse Thursday in a "cold, premeditated" spree, killing his lawyer, a co-defendant and a judge before being captured nearly 15 miles away as he fled on a motorbike, officials said.
Premier Matteo Renzi promised a robust investigation into how the gunman, Claudio Giardiello, managed to bring a pistol into the fortress-like tribunal, where metal detectors are used for visitors but not for employees, magistrates and accredited lawyers.
"Our commitment is that this never happens again, and that those responsible pay," Renzi said.
He praised the "heroism" of police who finally identified and disarmed Giardiello in a shopping center near his hometown, where prosecutors said he planned to kill others related to his failed real estate venture.
Prosecutors said Giardiello, who was in court Thursday for a hearing on the bankruptcy, fired a total of 13 shots during four minutes in the courthouse, moving from a courtroom, to the hallway and finally a judge's chambers downstairs.
He had two spare cartridges and the pistol was loaded when he was apprehended.
"He acted with cold premeditation," said prosecutor Tommaso Buonanno of Brescia, who is leading the investigation.
As the shots rang out, court employees barricaded themselves inside their offices and took cover under their desks while police hunted for the gunman, who according to video surveillance cameras fled out the same entrance he used to enter the building.
"There was a lot of panic at the beginning when people came running toward us saying there was a person with a pistol who had been shooting," said lawyer Mirko Ricetti, who said he locked himself in a first-floor court room with 15 others after hearing a shot.
The shooting immediately raised questions about how Giardiello gained entrance to the Fascist-era building. Prosecutors said Giardiello entered via an entrance intended for exclusive use by accredited personnel bearing proper ID, where there was no metal detector.
Prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati hypothesized that he may have used a false ID. Security at the courthouse is provided by a private firm, Secure Police.
The deputy interior minister, Filippo Bubbico, said an investigation would determine who was to blame for any security lapse.
"There's no doubt that this episode signals a non-functioning of the protection mechanisms," he told Sky TG24.
Giardello was eventually caught about a half-hour after the spree by carabinieri police at a shopping center in Vimercate, near Monza, some 15 miles from the scene. He was taken in for questioning at the Vimercate police station, but was later taken to hospital for an undisclosed ailment, prosecutors said.
Bruti Liberati said the gunman first fired on his lawyer and co-defendant in a courtroom, killing both and then seriously injured a second co-defendant. He met a business consultant in the hallway and shot him in the leg.
Afterwards, he "walked through the building, going down a floor, and killed the judge," Bruti Liberati told The Associated Press.
He said it wasn't clear if there was a relationship between Giardiello and the judge, Fernando Ciampi, who worked in the civil section of the bankruptcy court.
The gunman was on trial with two others for fraudulent bankruptcy concerning the collapse of their real estate venture. Prosecutors said, however, that the bankruptcy wasn't a particularly significant one.
Carbineri Cmdr. Maurizio Stefanizzi said surveillance cameras registered Giardiello's motorbike license plate as he fled, enabling police to identify him, his family and address and pass the information to squads around the area.
The incident raised fears about Italy's ability to protect visitors at the Expo world's fair in Milan, which opens May 1.
Interior Minister Angelino Alfano was in Milan on Thursday to preside over a public security coordination meeting for Expo when the shooting erupted. Officials insisted the courthouse shooting was an isolated event.
"This has nothing to do with Expo," Bruti Liberati said. "This was a personal crisis."