Moscow cop kills 3, injures 6 in shooting spree

MOSCOW - A Russian police major went on a killing spree at a Moscow supermarket on Monday, leaving three people dead and at least six injured, investigators said, in the latest blow to the force's standing.

Major Denis Yevsyukov, head of police of the southern Moscow district of Tsaritsyno, had been celebrating his birthday in a cafe and apparently argued with his wife before embarking on what proved to be a night of havoc.

Returning home from the cafe, he donned his policeman's coat and went out again, taking a lift in an unofficial private taxi, the prosecutor general's investigative committee said in a statement.

Yevsyukov "shot dead the driver of the Chevrolet Lanos he was being driven in . . . . The police chief then entered the Ostrov supermarket and continued firing.

"As a result a female cashier and a man were killed. Another six people received gunshot wounds of varying degrees of seriousness," the statement said.

And as police colleagues arrived at the supermarket, located in Moscow's gritty southern suburbs, Yevsyukov turned on them.

"He was firing vigorously, putting up resistance. It's a miracle none of the boys taking part in the arrest were injured," ITAR-TASS quoted a police source as saying.

Of at least six wounded people, four were in a serious condition. All were aged in their late teens or 20s, hospital sources said, quoted by Interfax.

A major investigation was under way, with initial reports suggesting the gunman had gone out of his mind due to family and work problems.

Pictures obtained from security cameras showed the smartly uniformed policeman brandishing his pistol among rows of supermarket shelves.

But amid debate on how the incident could have happened, other reports noted a history of management problems in the southern Moscow police division, which had led to two dismissals in its leadership in the last week.

The Makarov pistol used in the shooting was also a focus of attention as it was not the policeman's service weapon but had been sought in a criminal investigation in southern Russia.

"In all likelihood (Yevsyukov) took the Makarov pistol . . . off criminals of some kind whom he was dealing with in his work and didn't give it up as instructed," Interfax quoted an unnamed police source as saying.

The incident is the latest blow to the reputation of Russia's police, long dogged by charges of corruption and abuse.

Separately on Monday, the investigative committee said it had completed a probe into five officers in the Moscow region who face a host of drug-related charges.

Accused of kidnapping a Tajik citizen in a bid to extort money from his relatives, they allegedly beat their captive to death.

Security analyst Alexander Golts, who writes for online journal Yezhyednevy Zhurnal, said Monday Russian security forces were "out of control" thanks to a lack of public accountability and the country's top-down system of rule.

The incident "shows the level of morale of our police forces . . . . Everybody knows our police are totally and absolutely corrupted," he told AFP.

However parliament deputy Vladimir Vasilyev, who heads the Duma's security committee, said it would be "profoundly mistaken" to blame the whole police system.

He highlighted officers' heavy workload, poor pay and "permanent criticism from both their leadership and the media," Interfax said.