On April 22, 2013, a mass shooting occurred at approximately 2:20 p.m. Moscow time on a street in Belgorod in Belgorod Oblast, western Russia. The shooter, identified as 31-year-old Sergey (Sergei) Pomazun (Сергей Помазун), opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle on several people at a gun store and a sidewalk, killing all six people that were hit: three people at the store and three passersby, including two teenage girls.
After an extensive day-long manhunt, the alleged shooter Sergey Pomazun was apprehended by Kursk Oblast police the following night; during his arrest, he attacked and wounded a police officer with a knife. His trial began in June 2013. Pomazun, an ex-convict facing a life sentence, confessed to the killings that he said were not premeditated, as his plan was to procure weapons to kill a security guard over a personal insult and be prepared for a possible confrontation with the police afterwards, and told the court that he had previously killed women and children during his military service as a special forces marksman in Chechnya. On August 23, 2013, Pomazun was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
The shooting Spree
At a gun store called “Okhota” (“Hunting”), located at the intersection of Popova Street and Narodny Boulevard, a lone gunman (initially, some Russian media reported there were two attackers) armed with a Saiga semiautomatic rifle shot and killed two sales assistants and a visitor at the store. He then went outside and in broad daylight shot three other people that were walking by. Two of them, a man and a 14-year-old schoolgirl, died at the scene; the third, a 16-year-old schoolgirl, was wounded and died in a hospital an hour later. The four other victims were all males aged between 28 and 49.
The killer, who escaped from the crime scene in a black BMW X5, which was later abandoned, was identified as a 31-year-old local resident named Sergey (Sergei) Pomazun, who had three previous convictions. Pomazun was released from prison in 2012 after serving four years for robbery and assault on a police officer; the gun and the vehicle were both stolen from his father. The entire police force of the extended region went out searching for him (Belgorod authorities offered a reward of 3 million rubles for the suspect’s capture) until the late hours of April 23, when he was arrested near a railway station, where he was attempting to flee the city on a freight train, by four police officers from Kursk Oblast; one of them, a Major, was knifed by the suspect and seriously wounded. During his arrest, he told police he had been shooting “into hell”.
- Alexander Ivaskov (Александр Иваськов), 43
- Igor Malykhin (Игорь Малыхин), 40
- Mikhail Shamshurin (Михаил Шамшурин), 29
- Alina Chizhikova (Алина Чижикова), 14
- Sofia Gutsulyak (София Гуцуляк), 16
- Igor Boldyrev (Игорь Болдырев), 49
April 23 and 24 were declared days of mourning in Belgorod Oblast. The authorities promised to give out a million rubles to each of the victims’ families.
The accused shooter Sergei Pomazun underwent extensive psychiatric analysis but was found fit to stand trial. His trial has begun with preliminary hearings on June 22, 2013, with the prosecutor demanding life in prison. Pomazun confessed to the crime, but expressed no remorse for the shooting spree that he said was an accidental occurrence in the course of “a special operation” that went wrong. Pomazun testified that he plotted to kill a supermarket security guard who had insulted him and that he only intended to steal more weapons and ammunition from the gun store to be better prepared for a possible firefight with the intervening police following the planned murder. He claimed that the initial shooting was sparked by him spotting what he thought was a plainclothed policeman reaching for a concealed weapon; afterwards, he began shooting people to clear a path to the car.
He also told the court that he got used to killing civilians when he served in the military during the Second Chechen War between 1999-2001, first as a conscript with regular army and than as a sharpshooter in a unit of the secretive Spetsnaz GRU special forces. Pomazun claimed said his battalion participated in a series of special operations in Chechnya and killed nearly a thousand people “all the way from Mozdok to Khasavyurt,” including crushing them under tanks and beheading women and children in order to intimidate the population, something that he says has since plagued him in his nightmares. However, according to court documents, Pomazun was only a truck driver in the military and has never been to the North Caucasus; Pomazun replied that his service and missions were classified and refused to provide any more details.
The defendant’s lawyer Viktor Yeremeyev asked for 25 years due to his client’s mental state. On August 23, the court found Pomazun guilty of murdering six people, illegal weapons possession, taking weapons by force and assaulting a police officer, and sentenced him to life in prison.