At least three defendants, who were on trial for multiple murder cases, have been gunned down at a court building in the Russian capital, Moscow, after they attempted to disarm the officers escorting them and flee, police say.
The deadly incident occurred on Tuesday, when five handcuffed defendants were in an elevator in the Moscow Region Court, just outside the capital, as they tried to seize their two guards’ weapons, starting a short fight.
“Three suspects have been shot dead and two others injured while trying to make their way from the lift after emergency opening of the doors,” said Tatiana Petrova, the local police spokesperson, in a statement, adding that two police personnel were also wounded and were taken to a nearby hospital.
The prosecutor’s office for the Moscow region said it was investigating the shootout incident to establish whether the guards had violated the security procedure for escorting the defendants.
The five defendants plus four other suspects, all from Central Asia, had created a gang dubbed the Grand Theft Auto by Russian media, in a reference to the Grand Theft Auto violent series of video games. They were to have a hearing on Tuesday on charges of murdering 17 motorists and two attempted murders back in summer 2014.
According to prosecutors, the gang of nine was planting spikes on lonely highways, forcing the motorists out of their vehicles and shooting them dead. The incidents terrorized Moscow’s motorists for months. No obvious motives for the murders have been reported yet.