Lihula shooter trial to begin in February

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Site of last June's shooting at Lihula, Pärnu County. Source: Juhan Hepner/ERR

A court has scheduled for February the trial of a man who killed two people and injured three more in a shooting spree in Pärnu County last June.

Pärnu County Court will hear the case of Mikk Tarraste, 32, from February 15, the court decided, following a pre-trial hearing today, Wednesday. Tarraste will remain in custody until then.

The court also opted to handle civil actions from all victims, with sums sought totaling €350,000.

In addition, the court granted an application from Tarraste's defense lawyer to hear three witnesses.

The court plans to hear altogether 26 witnesses in the case.

The criminal case will utilize public hearings, with a total of 14 days planned for the sessions, BNS reports.

The West District Prosecutor's Office has charged Tarraste under the Estonian Penal Code with murder committed in a manner which is dangerous to the public, and with unlawful handling of ammunition.

The statement of charges, says that on the evening of June 6, Tarraste, while under the influence of alcohol and in violation of the Weapons Act, carried firearms in his passenger vehicle and caused a traffic accident at a gas station near Lihula, Pärnu County.

Tarraste allegedly subsequently fled the scene of the accident in an attempt to conceal these violations, then fired on a motorcyclist who had followed him, plus two passenger vehicles carrying altogether nine people.

The motorcyclist was killed, and one of the vehicles was hit. The passengers in that vehicle did not sustain any injuries.

Prosecutor Gardi Anderson said: "He shot the motorcyclist and the vehicles following it in an attempt to conceal the misdemeanors committed, and in an effort to return to his home unhindered."

Tarraste allegedly continued along the Tuudi-Raudtee road towards his farm, and repeatedly fired on a passenger vehicle driving in his direction. A woman passenger was killed, and a man and two children in the vehicle were injured.

The children's injuries were reportedly life-threatening.

The accused then allegedly continued firing at the stationary passenger vehicle, and paramedics, next-of-kin and police officers who arrived at the scene.

Tarraste then continued on foot along the same stretch of road until reaching Tuudi railway station, where he opened fire at police officers. One of the shots struck the helmet one of the officers was wearing.

Anderson said: "It is difficult to determine the circle of injured parties in this criminal case. Humanely speaking, it was not just the people who were physically hit by bullets that are the injured party. The bullets could have hit anyone in the vicinity. Survival would have been a matter of chance in this case. This is what the concept of 'a manner which is dangerous to the public' means in the statement of charges."

The two deaths and the injuries, as well as the endangering of countless people, had been deliberate, the prosecutor's office says.

"Due to his training in weapons and in medicine, he knew well what consequences firing at people can bring," Anderson continued. 

The court is to handle applications at the preliminary hearing and schedule the holding of court sessions.

On being apprehended, Tarraste was reportedly found to have been under the influence of alcohol and tranquilizers.

However, being intoxicated did not prevent Tarraste from comprehending the consequences of his actions, the prosecutor's office says.

The accused legally owned the weapons used in the incident. Illegal ammunition was found at two residences owned by Tarraste, one of them in Tallinn, which led to the corresponding charge.

While the unlawful handling of firearms or ammunition is punishable by either a pecuniary punishment or up to three years' imprisonment, homicide is punishable by eight to twenty years' imprisonment, or life imprisonment, BNS reports.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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