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US Firing Squad Executes Convicted Killer

A firing squad in the western U.S. state of Utah has executed convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner, making him only the third person to be put to death by that means in the United States since 1976.

The Utah Department of Corrections says 49-year-old Gardner was pronounced dead early Friday.

A spokesman says officials strapped Gardner into a chair, placed a hood over his head and put a target on his chest. Then, five volunteer marksmen using .30-caliber rifles took aim and fired.

In a statement, the delegation of the European Union to the United States expressed "profound regret" at the execution and reiterated the EU's universal opposition to the death penalty.

Gardner was sentenced to death for shooting and killing attorney Michael Burdell while attempting to escape from a courthouse in 1985. He was at the courthouse facing a murder charge in the shooting death of a bartender, Melvyn Otterstrom.

Several of Gardner's relatives held a candlelight vigil outside the prison in the hours leading up to his execution.

The U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

Gardner chose the firing squad as his preferred method of execution before it was banned in Utah and replaced by lethal injection, but he still tried to delay the sentence.

The Supreme Court, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the governor of Utah rejected a final series of appeals late Thursday.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert said Gardner had already been given "a full and fair opportunity" to have his case considered by numerous tribunals.

Officials said Gardner spent his last hours of life reading, watching movies and sleeping. They said he decided to fast prior to his execution and ate his last meal on Tuesday.

The meal included steak, lobster tail, apple pie, vanilla ice cream and soda.