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28 Dec, 2009 12:27

Killer policeman gives first testimony in court

Former Police Major Denis Yevsyukov, charged with killing two people and wounding seven during a shooting spree, has appeared before a Moscow City Court. Yevsyukov may face life in prison if convicted.

The verdict in Yevsyukov’s case may be brought in March next year, his defense lawyer Tatyana Bushueva said as quoted by Interfax news agency.

Meanwhile, victims’ lawyer Igor Trunov says the sentence will be announced even earlier.

“It’s an absolutely open and objective trial. I believe it will pass very quickly. Today, almost all aggrieved persons will be questioned, only a few witnesses will remain.

If the trial goes on as it did today – it will last for a month or a month and a half at the most,” Trunov said.

The incident took place in April this year. Shortly after midnight, Yevsyukov arrived at a Moscow supermarket and, having shot dead the driver who gave him a lift, entered a supermarket and opened fire on its customers. One sales clerk died and seven more customers were injured that night.

The supermarket manager says Yevsyukov was a regular visitor at the supermarket, but rarely bought anything. Instead, the manager claims, Yevsyukov would often drop by, fill his cart, threaten security guards and leave without paying.

Lena, one of Yevsyukov’s victims, recalled Yevsyukov’s actions that night.

I was standing shocked as he loaded the gun. I thought he would shoot in the air to scare us but the man first fired at me then at my friend.”

Later, Yevsyukov told investigators that he could not recall anything starting from the moment he left his birthday party earlier in the evening up until his arrest. However, court psychiatrists have rebuffed Yevsyukov’s claims, instead stating that the Major was perfectly aware of what he was doing. In the meantime, investigators claim that Yevsyukov was in fact under the influence of alcohol at the time he committed the crime.

Despite the security camera footage and numerous witness accounts, there are still gaps in the investigation.

“[Yevsyukov’s] fingerprints are gone,” said Igor Trunov, one of the victim’s lawyers. “We can all see in the footage that he used the gun and reloaded it. You would think the footage is enough to put the man in jail, but the question is for how long. If it is a sentence, not a life sentence, then he could at some point get early release.”

Trunov said that “investigation bodies are responsible for the fact that the fingerprints are gone” and it indicates “the quality of the investigation.”

Igor Trunov also believes that Yevsyukov’s defense will be insisting that the gun belonged not to Yevsyukov but to the driver he killed, and there was struggle between them. According to the lawyer, he has come to this conclusion after the first hearing into the case on Monday.

The father of Sergey Yevteev, the driver that Yevsyukov shot, told RIA Novosti agency that Yevsyukov was unlikely to confess to the murders. “He is not going to confess to anything, or apologize,” he said.

Yevsyukov has refused to be trialed by jury, instead requesting a panel of judges and has already admitted to being partly guilty of the crime.

Nevertheless, Yevsyukov refused to testify at the current stage of the trial.

Yevsyukov’s case is the most notorious in a string of recent crimes involving police officers in Russia.

Mikhail Vinogradov, criminal psychologist, says the problem stems from the fact that police officers do not undergo psychological examinations.

A law-enforcer’s job can make one aggressive, hateful. The sense of power gives them a free hand and leads to brutal interrogations, unlawful arrests, abuse of power,” explained Vinogradov. “Those things can be detected before these people go out and kill. Yevsyukov had been a patient in a psychiatric hospital several times, but nevertheless he made it to the head of a police department.”

Vinogradov was head of a police psychological service during Soviet times, and says that a third of the applicants had to be rejected because they failed to pass the stringent checks.

Yevsyukov’s case has caused outrage both on a community level and among lawmakers. The chief of Moscow’s police resigned over the incident, while calls for the Russian Police Department to be reformed are growing louder.

As a result, President Medvedev signed a decree on Thursday that is expected to reform the structure of Russia’s Ministry of the Interior. The decree stipulates that, in three months, revisions should be made to “the rules on the selection of candidates for service or work in the interior services of the Russian Federation with their moral, ethical and psychological characteristics being taken into consideration.”