VIENNA—Austrian police on Tuesday stormed a farmhouse where a poacher accused of shooting and killing three police and a paramedic was holed up with an arsenal of hunting guns.
Commandos from Austria’s elite ‘Cobra’ police force launched the operation to root out the 55-year-old gunman just before nightfall, at around 6:20 p.m. (1620 GMT), the Austria Press Agency (APA) reported, quoting a police spokesman.
Army tanks and hundreds of armed police in bullet proof gear were deployed to the poacher’s home, which had been surrounded since early Tuesday after he allegedly shot and killed four people.
Police spokesman Johann Baumschlager said earlier the man “appears to be heavily armed,” calling the situation “terrible and very explosive.”
The suspect had already fired several shots at the police surrounding his property before Tuesday evening’s operation began, the APA quoted police as saying.
Reports said that the man’s children may be inside the house with him although police said he lived alone. The surrounding area has been cordoned off.
The fire brigade and Red Cross workers were on standby at the house, but the outcome of the operation remained unclear late Tuesday.
Police commandos reportedly attempted to stop the man in his car on Monday after a tip-off that he was hunting illegally.
He drove through a road block and opened fire, reportedly after driving into a ditch, shooting one of the police commandos in the neck who died two hours later in hospital.
While the commando was still receiving medical attention some 50 minutes later the poacher opened fire again, killing an ambulance driver and leaving a second policeman injured.
The suspect, who owns a transport company, then fled on foot for several kilometers before firing at two other police officers, killing one on the spot and taking the other hostage.
He stole their police car and drove, with his captive, some 60 kilometers to his farmhouse.
Police said on Tuesday afternoon that the dead body of the officer taken hostage had been found in the police car in a shed at the farm.
The poacher was well known locally for giving police and licensed hunters the run-around, often leaving the heads of dead animals on roads.
He was said to have had his hunting license revoked several years ago.
The poacher legally owns several weapons and lots of ammunition, mostly for hunting, a popular pastime in Austria, reportedly including a powerful hunting rifle able to pierce protective clothing.