By Ruzanna Stepanian and Hovannes Shoghikian
Armenian law-enforcement authorities have made the first arrest in their investigation into the latest high-profile shootout in Yerevan that left a controversial young man and an innocent bystander dead, official said on Monday.
Sedrak Zatikian, a 26-year-old senior member of the influential Yerkrapah Union of Nagorno-Karabakh war veterans, was shot dead in broad daylight as he drove through the city’s Malatia-Sebastia district where he reportedly held sway. One of the stray bullets fired from a car that chased Zatikian’s expensive SUV for several minutes killed a 37-year-old woman who lived and worked nearby.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office said a man identified as Stepan Hakobian was arrested on Saturday in connection with the brazen shooting. It said he was charged only with illegal arms possession but gave no further details. A source in the law-enforcement agency told RFE/RL that the suspect is a nephew of Hakob Hakobian, a parliament deputy and a former Yerkrapah leader who wields considerable influence in Malatia-Sebastia.
Zatikian, who heads the Yerkrapah chapter in Malatia-Sebastia, and his brother had earned a nationwide notoriety in April 2004 after assaulting another nephew of Hakobian, Vartan, and a friend of his. The brothers hid from police for several months before making peace with Hakobian’s clan and avoiding prosecution.
That feud has fueled one of theories of Zatikian’s murder currently in circulation. Hakob Hakobian dismissed it as he spoke with RFE/RL on Friday, saying that his nephews and the Zatikian brothers were “friends” of late. Still, he did not explicitly rule out the possibility of them falling out again.
“I don’t know for sure. They are young people and such things happen in various places,” said Hakobian. “Whether it’s my brother or son [who committed the crime], he must be punished,” he added.
The dead man was primarily known as a son of Vahan Zatikian, a prominent member of Yerkrapah who ran the Malatia-Sebastia district from 1996 until his sudden death in 1999. Vahan Zatikian also had extensive business interests in the area that were inherited by his two sons.
Sedrak Zatikian was a schoolboy during the Karabakh war and could therefore not have taken part in it. He was apparently given a senior position in Yerkrapah in recognition of his father’s role in the influential organization.
In a statement on Friday, the Prosecutor-General’s Office said a special team of investigators formed by it has conducted forensic examinations and questioned “numerous eyewitnesses.” “All possible theories [of the crime] have been drawn up and are being investigated,” it said.