ROME – A 53-year-old whose identity has not been divulged was arrested Friday after leading police on a long chase through Rome, which ended with the perpetrator insisting that he planned to detonate a truckload of explosives at the Vatican, although the claim turned out to be a hoax.
According to Italian media reports, the incident began early Friday morning when emergency operators began receiving reports that a man on the main highway that loops around Rome’s metropolitan area, known as the Grande Raccordo Anulare, was throwing rocks at motorists and blocking traffic.
When police cars arrived on the scene, the man then ran off on foot, ending up in a nearby auto rental agency where he managed to steal a small truck equipped with a mobile crane.
The man then proceeded to lead police on a lengthy chase on the highway and through the streets of Rome, at one point ramming two police vehicles attempting to block his movement. The pursuit eventually involved a phalanx of police cars and even a helicopter belonging to the Carabinieri, Italy’s military police, monitoring the situation.
Eventually, police succeeded at stopping the truck after firing at its tires in Rome’s Piazza Pio XI, which is located roughly a mile from St. Peter’s Square at the top of a main artery leading away from the Vatican. Reports suggest the man exited the truck brandishing a knife and shouting at police to get out of his way, saying, “Let me go, I’ve got a load of explosives and I need to blow up this truck at the Vatican.”
In the end, however, after the man was taken into custody, a search of the truck revealed there were no explosives on board.
So far, police officials have not commented on the motives of the perpetrator, who’s been identified as a 53-year-old man from the Roman community of Guidonia who was supposed to be under house arrest for unrelated prior offenses.
Reports indicate the man is currently being held at Rome’s Regina Coeli prison, facing a lengthy list of charges including violent resistance, threats to public officials, aggravated theft, damage to property and carrying an improper weapon.
The prosecutor assigned to the case expects to set an initial hearing in the case in coming days.
This latest incident comes after a 40-year-old man forced his way into the Vatican in a vehicle in May, breaching an entrance and reaching a courtyard before being detained by the Gendarmes, the Vatican’s internal police force.
In that case, the perpetrator was determined to be suffering from psychological instability and was sent to a nearby hospital for psychological evaluation.