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Man who rammed car through Vatican gate sent to psych ward

The man who drove through a Vatican City gate and kept going even after guards fired at his car was taken Friday to a nearby hospital for psychiatric care after a preliminary interrogation, the Vatican said.

The man, who has not been identified by the Holy See, was taken to the Santo Spirito in Sassia psychiatric ward after spending the night in the Vatican police barracks.

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According to the Holy See, the man rushed the Santa Anna gate sometime after 8 p.m. Thursday, after the Swiss Guards initially refused him entry. He kept accelerating after Vatican gendarmes at an interior checkpoint fired at his tires, and ultimately stopped inside one of the courtyards of the Apostolic Palace. There, Vatican gendarmes arrested him, the Holy See statement said, adding that at the time he seemed in an agitated psychological state.

A Swiss Guard officer patrols the Vatican on Thursday night, shortly after a man with apparent mental health issues sped through one of the Holy See’s entrance gates. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

In an update Friday, the Vatican said the man, who was believed to be in his 40s, was interrogated by a Vatican magistrate in the presence of a lawyer. Given his condition, “he was taken to the psychiatric ward … for obligatory treatment,” the statement said.

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There was no word about his ultimate destination or motive, but the gendarmes closed the main internal gate leading to the piazza in front of the hotel where Pope Francis lives. The pope was believed to have been in the Santa Marta hotel at the time.

The incident was a rare incursion into the city state, much of which is off limits to the general public, especially at night.

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While visitors can access St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums during business hours, and people with doctors’ prescriptions can go to the Vatican pharmacy, permission is required to get into other buildings in the enclave.

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