Hunt is on for chainsaw attacker who wounded 5 in Swiss city

This undated images released by the KAPO Schaffhausen shows the alleged attacker who injured several people in Schaffhausen Switzerland Monday. An unkempt man armed with a chainsaw wounded five people Monday at an office building in the northern Swiss city of Schaffhausen and then fled, police said. A manhunt was on for him. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

BERLIN — A man armed with a chainsaw wounded five people at a health insurer’s office Monday in the northern Swiss city of Schaffhausen, police said, triggering a manhunt for a suspect described as aggressive and psychologically unstable.

Suspect Franz Wrousis, 51, has two previous convictions for weapons offences and no fixed residence, authorities said. A dog-walker said she had seen him in the woods near Schaffhausen for the last few weeks.

The attacker wounded two insurance agency employees in their ground-floor office in the old town of Schaffhausen on Monday morning, said Christina Wettstein, a spokeswoman for insurer CSS. Authorities said their lives were not in danger.

Revising earlier statements, police said one CSS employee was seriously injured and the other was slightly injured. Another three people were slightly injured in the attack, police said, but there was no information on them.

The perpetrator had fled by the time police arrived. Authorities sealed off the city’s old town until mid-afternoon but kept up their manhunt.

Swiss police ruled out terrorism.

“This was first and foremost a crime against this insurance agency,” senior regional police official Ravi Landolt told reporters, though there was no exact word on the suspect’s motive.

“We have information that this man is dangerous, that he is aggressive and, shall we say, psychologically disturbed,” Landolt added.

Swiss media reported that Wrousis was a CSS client. Switzerland has a system that requires residents to have mandatory health insurance with private health insurers.

Prosecutor Peter Sticher said Wrousis has two previous convictions for offences against weapons laws, one from 2014 and 2016. He didn’t elaborate or say where they were committed, but said Wrousis has no previous record in the small northern canton (state) of Schaffhausen, near the German border.

Wrousis was previously registered as living in Graubuenden canton, in Switzerland’s southeast. He apparently lives mostly in woods, Landolt said.

Police released old photos of Wrousis standing among trees in a green T-shirt and black jeans. They described him as being about 1 metre 90 centimetres tall (6.2 feet) and said he is now partly bald and unkempt.

They later released another photo of Wrousis, which they said was taken immediately before the attack. The image shows him walking along a street in a green jacket carrying a large black bag, which they said may have contained the chainsaw.

On Monday afternoon, police found the Volkswagen minivan with registration plates from Graubuenden that the suspect was believed to be driving. They did not elaborate on its condition or say if anything else was found in it.

Schaffhausen is a city of about 36,000 people north of Zurich.

Therese Karrer, who often walks her dog in woods south of Schaffhausen, said she saw the suspect several times in the last few weeks.

“I talked to him a few times and walked by his car every day with our dog,” said Karrer, who lives in the village of Uhwiesen.

Karrer said Wrousis showed up three or four weeks ago in the forest and chatted with her once when he was having breakfast behind his car.

“He may have been a little strange, but he wasn’t unfriendly,” she said. “I never felt threatened.”

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