Swiss gunman kills 3 people, had troubled history

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By JOHN HEILPRIN
Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) — A shooting in southern Switzerland has left three women dead, two men wounded and raised questions about how a troubled suspect was able to go on a rampage with an old military rifle.

The shooting – which came on the eve of students’ return to classes in Newtown, Connecticut, after a horrific school shooting – also highlighted the easy access to firearms in gun-loving nations.

The suspect, a 33-year-old unemployed man living on disability payments, fired about 20 shots Wednesday night in the village of Daillon, authorities in the Swiss canton (state) of Valais said Thursday.

He opened fire from his apartment and pursued people in the street, police said. Armed with a Swiss military rifle and a handgun, he then threatened to shoot the officers sent in to stop him, police said.

“The shooter pointed his weapon at our colleagues, so they had to open fire to neutralize him, to avoid being injured themselves,” police spokesman Jean-Marie Bornet told Swiss radio.

The suspect, who police did not identify, was arrested and taken to the hospital with serious wounds. Bornet said he lived in Daillon but the motive for the shooting was unclear.

Guns are popular among the Swiss – the Alpine country has at least 2.3 million weapons among a population of less than 8 million. Many rural areas have gun clubs, with children as young as 10 taking part in shooting competitions.

The suspect was using a military rifle that was once standard issue in the Swiss army, interim cantonal police chief Robert Steiner said.

Prosecutor Catherine Seppey said the suspect was unemployed and had been receiving psychiatric care since at least 2005, when he was first admitted to a psychiatric hospital. He was currently under the care of the cantonal agency for the disabled, she said.

His weapons were confiscated and destroyed in 2005, she said, “and currently no arms register showed he had a weapon. The inquiry will have to determine where the weapons came from.”

Buying a firearm in a Swiss shop requires a permit, a clean criminal record and no psychiatric disability, but buying a firearm from another person is less restrictive and old-style Army rifles are often sold at military surplus markets.

Most types of ammunition can be bought, while automatic firearms generally require a special police permit.

Seppey said the shooter knew several of the victims but “he was not known for making threats.”

The victims were three women aged 32, 54 and 79 who died at the scene, and two injured men, aged 33 and 63, who were taken to the hospital, Seppey said. The two youngest victims were a couple with small children.

“We have no words to express ourselves after an event like this,” Christophe Germanier, head of the Conthey district where the shooting occurred, told a news conference.

Daillon is near some of Switzerland’s most popular ski resorts, such as Verbier and Crans-Montana, and is in the country’s main wine-producing region. The area also boasts a sizeable share of the country’s federally protected hunting reserves.

Authorities say firearms are involved in nearly a quarter of the 1,100 suicides a year in Switzerland – which don’t include another 300 cases a year of assisted suicide – but shooting rampages are rare in peaceful, prosperous Switzerland.

A gunman who killed 14 people at a city meeting in Zug in 2001 was the nation’s worst rampage, leading to calls to tighten national gun-buying laws. Friedrich Leibacher used a commercial version of the Swiss army’s SG 550 assault rifle for the rampage, then killed himself.

All able-bodied Swiss men who are required to perform military duty often take their army-issued rifle home with them after completing military service. In 2007, the government began requiring that nearly all army ammunition is kept at secure army depots.

Many in Switzerland believe that distributing guns to households helped dissuade a Nazi invasion during World War II. In 2011, Swiss voters rejected a proposal to tighten gun laws.

“This is part of Switzerland’s self-defense, where the entire army can be mobilized in 24 hours,” said Daniel Warner of the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces. “I don’t think (the latest shooting) is going to cause a change in attitude here.”

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  8 comments for “Swiss gunman kills 3 people, had troubled history

  1. mikehell
    January 5, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    I find it hard to believe that the Germans didn’t invade Switzerland because they feared the militias armed with bird guns and hunting rifles. More likely the Swiss made a secret deal with the Nazi command; maybe they laundered stolen loot for Nazi elites through the then-very-secretive Swiss banking system? Who knows?

    • January 5, 2013 at 4:27 pm

      Hi Mike,

      Actually, the Swiss fielded a formidable defense, including an air force flying (surprise) Me 109s. Look up Henri Guisan. See here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Guisan

      • MoT
        January 6, 2013 at 7:49 pm

        I went to a school in Japan where the director of that small operation was Swiss. He’d, naturally, been in the Swiss military and told me that the mountains are honey-combed with tunnels and defensive anti-aircraft countermeasures that would give any invading force a thorough thrashing. They’d even blow up the passes on top of whomever tried to use them. These measures he said were obviously not broadcast to the world. So maybe they have the dirt on a lot of people but whoever wanted to cause trouble would deservedly bleed.

  2. Tor Munkov
    January 5, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Good old broken Pakled English of AP mainstream monopoly news.

    Swiss is smart. We need smart. We need make like Swiss gun culture to make us safe. Swiss is safe. We need invade Switzerland to look for things that make them smart and safe. Swiss has things we need. Things that make us safe and smart. We need help.

    We has newsflash. Swiss has guns. Things that make us dead. We find help somewhere else where things don’t make us dead. We are smart.
    - – - – - – - -
    “All able-bodied Swiss men who are required to perform military duty often take their army-issued rifle home with them after completing military service.”

    “In 2007, the government began requiring that nearly all army ammunition is kept at secure army depots”
    - – - – - – -
    We are AP. We write things. Things that make you entertained. Read AP and be entertained. We are Pakleds writing for the AP. Writing things that make you entertained.

    • January 5, 2013 at 4:23 pm

      Tor,

      That post (Pakleds) is a keeper – made my morning!

      • Tor Munkov
        January 7, 2013 at 8:16 am

        Thanks Eric! Here’s a Swiss non-Pakled version of the story for you.

        Swiss shooter “Cedric” was mental patient: police
        Published: 03 Jan 2013 09:45 GMT+01:00

        A 33-year-old man who shot dead three women in a Swiss village on Wednesday night was a known drug abuser with a history of psychiatric problems, according to Swiss media reports.

        The shooter is believed to have known his three victims, women aged 32, 54 and 79. He also shot and injured two men, aged 33 and 63, police confirmed at a press conference on Thursday morning.

        Armed with a 1960s-era Swiss army carbine and a hunting rifle, the 33-year-old fired around 20 shots from his apartment before continuing his shooting spree on a street in Daillon, a small village in the canton of Valais.

        Police said the man had his military weapons confiscated in 2005, when he was admitted to a psychiatric clinic. It is not known how he gained possession of the weapons used in Wednesday evening’s attack.

        Cantonal police spokesman Jean-Marie Bornet told AFP that police had returned fire after coming under threat from the man, named by local media only as Cedric.

        Of the two injured, one was in critical condition, police said, while the second was recovering after being wounded in the shoulder.

        Le Matin newspaper said the 63-year-old who was shot in the shoulder, a former policeman, was the suspect’s uncle and his neighbour and was involved in a family dispute with the gunman.

        The alleged shooter lived in the house his parents had given him when they divorced.

        He was wounded during an exchange of gunfire while being apprehended by police and was also taken to a hospital, where he was in intensive care.

        “There was an exchange of gunfire because he was threatening police officers. He was hit and wounded,” Bornet said, adding that no police officers were injured.

        “There is bewilderment and shock in Valais. This is a man who lived in Daillon and opened fire on his neighbours,” Bornet told RSR Swiss radio.

        His motives for the shooting were not known, but officials said he was a resident of the village and had known his victims.

        “Three victims died at the scene. Two other people were wounded and hospitalized,” said police in the canton of Valais, which borders Italy and France.

        Forensic investigators were at work Thursday in the picturesque village of 400 residents, which is perched at an altitude of 1,000 metres and surrounded by vineyards.

        Police said in an earlier statement they had responded after being called about the shooting and told that “several injured people are lying on the ground”.

        Police “immediately intervened and neutralized the suspect,” the statement said.

        Swiss media quoted local residents as saying the gunman had been drinking heavily before the shooting.

        Resident Marie-Paule Udry told news website 20Minutes.ch the man had been in a local restaurant prior to the shooting, adding: “He had drunk a lot.”

        Gun ownership is widespread in Switzerland, where the law allows any citizen aged over 18 to possess arms under certain conditions.

    • January 6, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      Pakleds. Where Idiocracy meets Star Trek.

  3. Tor Munkov
    January 7, 2013 at 8:08 am

    ++Start sewing gold into your coats, everyone!++
    ++Preet Bharara American Prosecutor Born In India Attacks!++

    Oldest Swiss bank perishes in US tax case
    Published: 05 Jan 2013 00:11 GMT+01:00

    The oldest Swiss bank, Wegelin & Co., is wrapping up an existence that has spanned more than 270 years after pleading guilty in a US case involving Americans who hid funds in secret accounts abroad.

    UBS ‘ordered’ to give out data in US tax probe (10 Feb 12)
    Swiss banker quits paper amid US tax dispute (09 Feb 12)
    Oldest Swiss bank sold amid US tax dispute (27 Jan 12)
    Wegelin, which was founded in 1741 and based in St. Gallen, eastern Switzerland, unveiled late on Thursday an agreement with US federal prosecutors in New York that includes penalties worth a total of $57.8 million for helping wealthy individuals avoid at least $20 million in taxes.

    “Wegelin was aware that this conduct was wrong,” said Otto Bruderer, one of the bank’s managing partners, as he entered a guilty plea on behalf of the bank to one count of conspiracy.

    The bank is the first Swiss financial institution to admit it aided US tax evaders, and has also agreed to preserve data on Americans that had accounts at the bank pending further instructions from competent Swiss authorities.

    “Wegelin believed that, as a practical matter, it would not be prosecuted in the United States for this conduct because it had no branches or offices in the United States and because of its understanding that it acted in accordance with, and not in violation of, Swiss law and that such conduct was common in the Swiss banking industry,” Bruderer told the court.

    The bank carried out operations in the United States via an account with UBS, and the case marked the first time that US justice officials have charged a bank, rather than individuals, as part of a crackdown on overseas tax evasion, Dow Jones Newswires said.

    In 2009, UBS, the biggest Swiss bank, reached its own agreement with US authorities that halted legal proceedings against it.

    Under terms of that deal, UBS did not acknowledge guilt, but agreed to give US officials the names of around 4,450 US clients who held accounts at the bank.

    US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara termed the agreement with Wegelin a “watershed moment in our efforts to hold to account both the individuals and the banks — wherever they may be in the world — who are engaging in unlawful conduct that deprives the US treasury of billions of dollars of tax revenue”.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, the court could sentence the Swiss bank on March 4th formally endorsing the agreement and putting an end to further prosecution of Wegelin in the United States.

    Three Wegelin bankers charged in the United States last year are not covered by the agreement, however.

    Wegelin had essentially stopped operating as a bank in late January 2012 to focus on the US case, selling its non-US operations to the Notenstein bank, which has since been bought by the Swiss banking group Raiffeisen.

    Several Swiss banks are still under investigation by US justice officials, but while the names of Credit Suisse and Julius Baer have circulated for months, none have been formally identified.

    In December, the Zurich Cantonal Bank (ZKB) revealed that three of its employees faced charges.

    “These are two different cases. In the case of ZKB, three employees (two active and one former employee) have been accused, and there are no indications that the bank will be accused,” a bank spokesman told AFP on Friday.

    ZKB declined to comment on Wegelin’s guilty plea.

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