Russian Cop Sentenced to Life in Prison for Murder

Former Police Major Denis Yevsyukov. Source: ReutersThe Moscow City Court has sentenced former police officer Denis Yevsyukov to life in prison for murder, Interfax reports.

Judge Dmitri Fomin handed down the conviction on Friday for two counts of murder and 22 counts of attempted murder.

The former police major sparked a national media blitz last April when he walked into a Moscow supermarket around midnight and began randomly shooting people. Three people were killed and many others were injured.

CCTV footage shows the officer, clearly drunk, struggling with patrons and supermarket staff while trying to pull out his weapon. Yevsyukov admitted in court to the murder of one cashier after being shown the incident on tape, but said that he has no memory of what happened that night.

During closing arguments on Tuesday, Yevsyukov stated that “I’m not asking for a light sentence, I’m asking for fairness, if I may ask for it.”

Defense lawyer Tatyana Bushuyeva, who had argued that Yevsyukov was not in a normal state of mind and asked for the court to consider the incident “an act of hooliganism,” said that they plan to contest the ruling.

Moscow City Police Press Secretary Pyotr Biryukov admitted to RIA Novosti that they had expected a life sentence, saying it was “a deserving punishment.”

Survivors injured in the shooting, who were earlier denied compensation by the police because Yevsyukov was off-duty at the time of the incident, are already renewing their appeals.CCTV footage of Yevsyukov during a drunken killing spree.

In addition to life in punishment for the former officer, Judge Fomin issued a separate statement to Russian Internal Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, declaring that the career politics of his agency are “unsatisfactory.”

Investigators had determined that Yevsyukov was under stress due to pressure at work prior to the incident.

Tackling Russia’s notoriously corrupt and violent police force has been a stated goal this year for Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. Yesterday, the president fired two deputy interior ministers and more than a dozen top law enforcement officers, and issued his second order in less than a month for drastic cuts in law enforcement personnel.

While violence and corruption on the part of the police is nothing new for most Russians, the media attention brought on by Yevsyukov’s killing spree has resulted in increased coverage and criticism of the disturbing number of incidents of brutal police criminality. As reports followed one after another of officers killing pedestrians while driving drunk, fatal beatings, and an increase in police suicides, top governmental officials began calling for the Internal Ministry to be dissolved altogether.

In a recent example earlier this month, an elderly composer was severely beaten and robbed in the city of Yekaterinburg by a group of police who allegedly swore at the victim, telling him “Nurgaliyev isn’t going to help you.” Local authorities only accepted the composer’s appeal about the incident after he filed it a second time, and no criminal charges were initiated until after the story broke in the Russian media last Tuesday.