Shots fired as deranged driver crashes into Vatican city

A Swiss Guard on duty at Vatican City's St. Anne's gate

 VATICAN CITY – Security was tightened around Pope Francis’s tiny city state Friday after a deranged driver Thursday evening crashed a car at high speed through two Swiss Guard and gendaremie checkpoints at the St Anne’s gate and reached the San Damaso square close to the Apostolic Palace despite Vatican gendarmes firing shots to try and shoot out his tyres, Vatican sources said.

 Gendarmes arrested the driver after he got out of the Fiat panda car in the San Damaso piazza as Swiss Guards, fearing a terrorist attack on the pontiff, sealed off the Santa Marta guesthouse where the pope lives.

 “Security evidently does not work perfectly in the Vatican,” Rome's Il Messaggero newspaper commented.

 “The incident remains a source of concern as it shows that the vigilance system, already at the highest level, risks being vulnerable. What would have happened if the driver had been a terrorist driving a car loaded with explosives?”

 The unidentified man initially drove into the St Anne’s gate entrance at around 8 p.m. and when he was refused entry by Swiss Guards, reversed out and then drove back in at considerable speed bursting through two checkpoints as a gendarme inspector fired a pistol shot at the front tyres, hitting the left bumper, the sources said.

 An alarm code was sent around the Vatican city and the Swiss Guards closed the Zecca Gate that gives access to the back of St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican gardens and the Piazza Santa Marta behind Pope Francis’s residence.

 Officers said the driver was an Italian aged around 40 and was deemed by Vatican doctors who examined him to be in “a grave state of psycho-physical alteration.”

 The man was being held in a detention cell pending his being handed over to Italian authorities.