CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy — A former government official hurled a bag of garbage at Pope John Paul II's summer villa Thursday and was killed a short time later by police when he attacked a pursuing officer with an ax, authorities said.
Police identified the dead man as Roberto Porfili, 45, a political science graduate who was a senior official at the Ministry of Cultural Property until he took an early retirement in 1977.
Police said Porfili had been undergoing psychiatric treatment and was separated from his wife and two daughters. His garbage-throwing gesture appeared due to his unstable mind, authorities said.
Porfili stopped his small Opel car outside the rear entrance of the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo, 12 miles south of Rome, at about 4 a.m., authorities said.
He jumped out, brandishing an ax, and tossed a plastic bag of garbage at policemen guarding the gate of the villa, where John Paul has been staying since shortly after he returned from his trip to Colombia on July 8.
'For You and the Pope'
"This package is for you and the Pope," Porfili shouted as the police guards, fearing a terrorist bomb attack, ducked for safety.
The Pope, who survived an assassination attempt in St. Peter's Square on May 13, 1981, was not immediately aware of the incident.
After throwing the package, Porfili sped off toward Rome in his car. Police radioed an alert and two patrol cars followed Porfili's Opel on the Via Ardeatina highway, four miles from the southern gates of the ancient city wall.
To stop Porfili, the pursuing police cars fired bursts of submachine-gun fire at his rear tires, puncturing one of them.
Porfili's Opel slid across the highway and stopped. Police said Porfili jumped out brandishing his ax and attacked the driver of one of the police cars. He crashed his ax through the roof of the car and then knocked the driver to the ground, police said.
At that point, another policeman fired a burst of submachine-gun fire at Porfili, killing him instantly. Porfili had bullet wounds in the head and both shoulders.
Inside his car, police said they found other small sacks of garbage and another ax. Police said they also found in Porfili's pockets several sheets of handwritten notes in which Porfili had recorded his thoughts on mental illness.