Lihula shooter pleads guilty over civil damages, denies fleeing scene
A man who fired on several people near the village of Lihula, Pärnu County, last June, killing two and injuring four, has pleaded guilty to charges brought in civil cases against him, on the opening day of his trial Monday. However, he denies attempting to conceal firearms or fleeing the scene. It was after doing the latter that the accused allegedly killed the two individuals.
Mikk Tarraste, 32, entered a guilty plea at the first-tier Pärnu County Court, BNS reports, meaning he admits his guilt and accepts all civil actions brought against him.
Tarraste however pleaded not guilty for attempting to conceal his crimes and of fleeing the scene.
Prosecutor: Accused acted with intent
The prosecutor's office finds that Tarraste, a former Defense League (Kaitseliit) volunteer, acted deliberately in endangering the lives of the public, in addition to killing two and injuring four more people on June 6 last year.
Prosecutor Gardi Anderson Anderson said: "Due to his training in weapons and medicine, he knew well what consequences shooting at people could bring."
Tarraste is in addition charged with possessing ammunition illegally, following a search at two of his addresses, including one in Tallinn. Tarraste legally owned the weapons he used in last June's attack.
Could face lengthy prison term
Unlawful handling of firearms or ammunition is punishable by a pecuniary punishment or up to three years' imprisonment, BNS reports, while manslaughter is punishable by eight to twenty years' imprisonment, or a life term.
The statement of charges says that n the evening of June 6 the accused, while under the influence of alcohol and in violation of the Weapons Act, had conveyed firearms in his passenger vehicle and was at fault in a traffic accident at a gas station near Lihula, Pärnu County.
He is charged with fleeing the accident scene in an attempt to conceal the weapons violations, with a motorcyclist in pursuit.
After shootings, accused continued journey on foot
Tarraste is charged with opening fire on the motorcyclist and two passenger vehicles carrying a total of nine people. The motorcyclist was killed while the occupants of the two cars were unscathed.
The prosecution says that he was attempting to return to his property, a farmhouse, but then opened fire on a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction on the Tuudi-Raudtee road, killing one in the vehicle, a woman, and injuring three others, including two children.
The accused then remained at the scene when paramedics, police officers and others arrived, opening fire again, before continuing on foot towards his home.
Prosecutor: Accused understood his actions, matter of chance who got hit
In the vicinity of the Tuudi train station, where he opened fire once more, on police officers this time, striking the helmet of one of the officers.
The prosecutor said: "It is difficult to determine the circle of injured parties in this criminal case. Humanly speaking, it was not just a question of the people who were physically hit by bullets being the injured parties. Rounds fired could potentially have hit anyone in the area. 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."
Tarraste was then apprehended by police and, while found to be under the influence of both alcohol and tranquilizers, according to the prosecutor's office fully understood the potential consequences of his actions.
Civil damages amount to €350,000
The West District Prosecutor's Office has charged Tarraste with murder committed in a manner which is dangerous to the public and with unlawful handling of ammunition.
The hearings at Pärnu County Court are public, with 14 days allocated for sessions.
Tarraste's defense counsel, Runno Roosmaa, says his client acknowledges what he has done and accepts all damages caused in civil cases brought against him, which total around €350,000.
Tarraste has reportedly maintained his earlier public apology and expression of regret over the incident.
The case is ongoing.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte