'Grand Theft Auto' gang members die in escape bid shootout at court
A shooting in a courthouse in a Moscow suburb yesterday afternoon left three assailants dead and two heavily injured.
Two convoy officers, a man and a woman, also sustained injuries, as did an officer of the National Guard, Russia's newest law enforcement task force.
The shooters were alleged members of the so-called "GTA gang" - a reference to the popular video game Grand Theft Auto - a mysterious crime group that used to terrorise drivers heading south on the M4 highway that connects Moscow and Rostov-on-Don.
Between 2013 and 2014 the gang was reported to stop cars on the highway by using different methods to damage their tyres, including shooting at the wheels.
Gang members would then approach drivers, pretending to offer help but instead robbing and brutally murdering them.
In November 2014 the Investigative Committee reported arresting the supposed gang members.
In August 2016, a trial of nine of them began in the Moscow Region Court, located in a northwestern suburb of the capital.
The accused were charged with 17 counts of murder, as well as robbery, banditry, illicit firearms trafficking and document forgery.
Yesterday, five of the accused were being transported to the courtroom by two convoy officers, a man and a woman, for another court hearing of the case. In the elevator, it is reported that one of them attacked one of the convoy officers, while the others seized the officers' guns. Once the elevator arrived on the third floor of the courthouse, the accused started shooting at the National Guard officers waiting for them in the hall in an attempt to flee from the courthouse.
Both of the convoy officers were injured, as well as one National Guard officer.
The other National Guard officers tried to disarm and stop the shooters, killing three of them and heavily injuring two in the process.
Lawyer Sofia Rubasskaya, who was in the courthouse on another case, told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency that she had heard at least 20 gunshots.
According to a statement that was issued by the National Guard after the shooting, none of the "civilians" present at the courthouse was hurt "thanks to the brave and professional actions of the National Guard officers".
The prosecutor's office of the Moscow region opened a criminal probe into the accident.
Moscow region prosecutor Alexei Zakharov promised to investigate possible violations of the convoy procedure.
Perpetrators of the shooting are likely to face additional charges of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, stealing firearms and attempt at fleeing custody.