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19 Feb, 2010 10:08

Killer cop found guilty and sentenced to life

A former Moscow policeman has been found guilty of killing two people and attempting to murder 22 more in a shooting rampage at a supermarket last year. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Denis Yevsyukov has also been found guilty of endangering the lives of policemen, and of the illegal possession of a firearm.

The court also ruled that Yevsyukov must compensate the injured.

Senior prosecutor of the General Prosecutor’s Office Amalia Ustaeva told the press that the prosecution is satisfied with the sentence, considering it to be lawful and reasonable.

“Based on the text [of the verdict], I think that we, as representatives of Major Yevsyukov’s victims, have a very good chance of filing successful compensation law suits against the Ministry of Finance for the moral damages caused by Yevsyukov’s crimes,” said Irina Khrunova, one of the victim’s lawyers.

Meanwhile, Yevsyukov’s lawyer said she is going to appeal the verdict.

Yevsyukov’s sentence comes just a day after President Dmitry Medvedev announced a number of measures to raise the efficiency of Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.

“The most important thing is not the process itself, but the fact that it uncovered a lot of cases of abuse by police officers. It is now clear that the force should undergo drastic reform,” lawyer Andrey Rakhmilovich said.

The shooting spree which killed two and injured seven enjoyed unprecedented media attention and sparked public outrage.

What is worse is that Denis Yevsyukov, the man responsible, wasn’t just a regular police officer. He headed a criminal police department, then became chief of a police district in Moscow before his murderous tendencies took hold.

After being caught up in the Yevsyukov shooting massacre, teenage girls Olya and Alyona matured overnight and now speak like adults, discussing Evsyukov’s punishment. The girls were lucky to survive that night when two lives were claimed and 22 others were endangered.

Of course we are happy that Yevsyukov has been sentenced to life in prison, though I am not sure that he will really spend all his life behind bars. Sooner or later, they’ll let him go,” says Olya.

Denis Yevsyukov's 31st birthday party ended in slaughter. After visiting two restaurants he put on a uniform and armed himself. He expressed regret in court for his actions, claiming he was out of his mind at the time of the attack. The officers who eventually arrested him said the accused told them: “I wish I had a machine gun. It would be far more fun!”

The victims’ lawyer, Igor Trunov, says this case is just the tip of an iceberg of police corruption.

“Yevsyukov regularly came to this supermarket to do shopping. But it wasn’t traditional shopping. He held out his police ID instead of money. The police are covering-up for the defendant. They’d be happy if he committed suicide, then he wouldn't be washing the dirty linen of the police in public.”

Even though Yevsyukov was eventually subdued, Alyona still continues to feel unsafe.

“After I was discharged from the hospital and stood at the same shop with my friends, a car with police lights approached. Men came out and asked for me. Nobody pointed at me, but they picked me out by the scar on my back. They wanted me to go with them and offered compensation,” Alyona recalled.

Alyona said no, and now fears the consequences. It is the police badges which now terrify the girls more than guns.

As for physical scars, the question of official state compensation for his victims is still to be resolved. Alyona’s operation cost her parents $1,000. Two others – a boy with a bullet under his heart and another girl whose face was left disfigured – cannot afford surgery. For some, the damage can never be repaired.

“The cashier who was killed… I knew her. She was a good woman. We often met her,” Alyona said.

Despite the terrible events, Alyona and Olya still go to the same supermarket, as it's the closest to their home. But regardless of how much the two girls have grown up in such a short period of time, Alyona still cannot bear watching the year-old footage of the event.

While many believe that public trust in the police has been shattered by a recent onslaught of violence, Fred Weir from the Christian Science Monitor newspaper argues to the contrary. Weir says Yevsyukov's case represents the first time that the police are being held accountable for acts they have been committing for a long time.

The corruption, impunity with which [the police] abuse their office – this has been standard in Russia. What wasn’t standard in the past is the kind of media attention and the public accounting that is taking place now,” said Weir. “Hopefully, that will lead, in the long run, to greater public trust, and certainly the feeling among average Russians that they have recourse when they are mistreated by the police.

One of the outcomes of the trial is the major police reform recently launched at the request of President Dmitry Medvedev, which aims to cut corruption and improve effectiveness within the Russian Interior Ministry. The reform will also half the Ministry’s current number of staff – a measure that editor in chief of Moscow News Tim Wall says could see “good” police officers thrown out as well.

There are a good number of honest cops who are trying to change the system. I think this is where Medvedev has got to help them out,” said Tim Wall. “He has got to protect these whistle-blowers and not send people [who strive to expose corruption] to jail.

Jessica Golloher, a freelance journalist, says Yevsyukov’s case should be kept separate from the issue of police corruption and the recent reform.

I think that Denis Yevsyukov happened to be the right man at the wrong time,” said Golloher. “He happened to kill a lot of people and he happened to do something very bad. He also happened to be wearing a police uniform. I don’t think that giving him life in prison is addressing the problem of corruption.”