Three women were shot and killed and two men were wounded before police in southernSwitzerland disabled the gunman by shooting him in the chest, officials said Thursday.
Police said the alleged assailant, an unemployed 33-year-old who had been treated for psychiatric problems in the past, was arrested and hospitalized after the rampage late Wednesday in the village of Daillon.
The man began firing from his apartment down toward the street and through the windows of other houses before coming outside and continuing to fire, police in the Swiss canton of Valais said in an online statement.
The three women killed, identified as 32, 54 and 79 years old, were all struck at least twice, police said.
“It’s inexplicable. It’s just unbelievable,” local government leader Christophe Germanier told reporters after the shooting, according to a recording from World Radio Switzerland.
Prosecutor Catherine Seppey told the station the alleged gunman had previously broken Swiss drug law; Valais police identified the crime as a marijuana offense.
Officials said it was unclear how the suspect obtained the two guns used in the killings, one a 20th century military rifle historically used by Swiss militiamen. Police confiscated his weapons when he went into a psychiatric ward in 2005; records show no weapons owned by the man since, authorities said.
The shooting could spur new questions about gun regulation in Switzerland, an affluent and largely peaceful country that has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world.
The country is often touted by gun-control opponents because it has relatively low levels of violent crime. However, researchers point out that Switzerland has stiffer regulations and fewer guns per capita than the United States, by far the world leader in gun ownership.
Most Swiss gun ownership is tied to military service, which is required for all men in the country, said Janet Rosenbaum, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at theState University of New York Downstate Medical Center.
Some Swiss men store their military rifles at home, a practice rooted in the idea that Switzerland should have its militia at the ready for defending the nation. Militiamen are allowed to keep those guns after they serve.
Two years ago, voters rejected a proposed law that would have banned storing military rifles at home. However, under another, earlier law, military ammunition must be kept elsewhere.
Authorities say Swiss army weapons are involved in about 300 deaths annually, many of them suicides, the Associated Press reported Thursday.