A Russian court on Friday sentenced a man convicted of killing six bystanders in a provincial town square shooting spree to life in prison, despite defence claims he is mentally ill.
Sergei Pomazun, 32, opened fire in April in the city of Belgorod, close to the Ukrainian border, killing two teenage girls among others in a central square and in a hunting store where he stole several weapons.
He was captured two days later attempting to board a train and stabbed a policeman who apprehended him, saying in a police video that he was “shooting at hell”.
A regional court convicted Pomazun on a slew of charges, including murder, possession of firearms, and attempted murder of a police officer, a statement by the prosecutor general said.
He was declared sane by an expert panel, which concluded that he was capable of self control and that the crimes were premeditated and carefully organised.
Prosecutors said that he killed his victims to “ease the theft of firearms” and “out of hooliganism”.
The man, a Belgorod local who used his father’s hunting rifle as his weapon, sat in the courtroom cage handcuffed and screamed threats and profanities at the audience, according to television footage.
In his last statement earlier this month Pomazun said the shootings were “not initiated by him” and asked for a sentence of 25 years. His lawyer argued that Pomazun’s actions were sparked by mental illness.
Life in prison is the maximum possible sentence in Russia, where the death penalty has been suspended while remaining written into law.
Prosecutor Dmitry Lazarev expressed hope that the case “serves as a signal for the government and society to reconsider issues concerning punishment,” according to Russian news agencies.
Despite his life sentence, Pomazun can eventually appeal for parole, a prospect that horrifies the victims’ relatives.
“He should never walk free,” a relative of the murdered shop owner Tatiana Ivaskova told a Russian television channel.
Pomazun, who had prior convictions, sparked a massive manhunt in Belgorod, a city with a population of around 370,000, before he was arrested.
Shooting sprees remain rare in Russia where gun ownership is largely restricted to those in law enforcement and the military.
In April 2009, a drunken off-duty police major killed two and wounded seven in a Moscow supermarket. He was sentenced to life in prison.