Local residents lay flowers at the site of a shooting in the southwestern… (Associated Press )
MOSCOW--Thousands of police and volunteers fanned out over the Russian city of Belgorod on Tuesday, hunting for a 32-year-old ex-convict who is suspected in the shooting deaths of six people, two of them teenage girls.
The massive manhunt ranged through every house, street and yard in the city of 350,000, which lies not far from the Ukrainian border about 400 miles southwest of Moscow.
“We are still trying to draw a full psychological portrait of the fugitive, but it is quite clear that the man is extremely dangerous and, in addition, armed to the teeth,” Yekaterina Vozhzhova, spokesperson for Belgorod city police department, said in a phone interview. “All the city and regional police, riot police reinforced by special units from Moscow, are taking part in this manhunt, which we hope will soon produce a result.”
Police have not yet established the motive behind the crime, she said.
Shortly after 2 p.m. Monday, Vozhzhova said, Sergei Pomazun allegedly entered a hunting shop in downtown Belgorod. Armed with a carbine rifle he stole from his father’s firearms safe and about 40 live rounds, he shot three shop assistants inside and three passersby outside before driving away in a black BMW, she said.
Five victims died on the spot. The sixth, a 16-year-old girl, was taken to a hospital, where she died in surgery.
A 14-year-old girl was also among the victims.
Russia-24, a television news network, aired chilling footage Tuesday that showed a man identified as Pomazun shooting the two girls outside the shop. The video was taken by a camera mounted above the shop’s front door.
The father of the 14-year-old victim, who spent all night grieving at the crime site, was hospitalized Tuesday morning with a heart attack and died later in the day, Russia-24 reported.
“We believe the attacker must have taken one or more guns and more rounds from the shop,” Vozhzhova said. She said his car was found not far from the crime scene and he was presumed to have continued on foot.
Russia-24 reported that an inspection of the shop’s stocks revealed that Pomazun took five guns, both hunting rifles and shotguns, and a substantial amount of ammunition.
Police announced a $100,000 bonus for information leading to the fugitive’s apprehension. Vozhzhova said authorities have already received dozens of phone calls from people reporting sightings of a man matching Pomazun’s description in different parts of the city, in the region and even in Ukraine.
Pomazun served two prison terms for theft, the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda reported. Pomazun returned home from his most recent prison term in December.
Belgorod was quiet Tuesday morning, with many people remaining indoors and keeping their children home from school, resident Sergei Zhernov said.
“My two children will stay at home until the criminal is caught,” Zhernov said in a phone interview. “We don’t care if they stay away from school for the rest of the week and all of next week if needed as long as they are safe."
Despite the tension, scores of people were bringing flowers and candles to the shooting site all day Tuesday, Russia-24 reported.
For the record, 1:41 p.m., April 23: An earlier version of this post said the 14-year-old shooting victim died at the hospital and the 16-year-old at the scene. The 16-year-old was the one who died in the hospital.