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By Astghik Bedevian
Armenia’s three main law-enforcement bodies have launched a joint investigation into the shock murder of Gevorg Mherian, a deputy chief of the national police, officials said on Wednesday.

Mherian was shot dead late on Tuesday moments after leaving his seventh-floor apartment in Yerevan. According to the Office of the Prosecutor-General, the 33-year-old was received four bullets, three of them in his head, as he waited for the elevator.

A statement by the office said its Special Investigative Service (SIS) as well as the Armenian police and the National Security Service (NSS) swiftly formed a special team tasked with solving the crime. It said the SIS opened on Tuesday night a criminal case under two articles of Armenia’s Criminal Code. One of them deals with murders of individuals committed as a result of their work.

Hector Sardarian, a senior SIS official leading the probe, told RFE/RL that the investigators believe Mherian was most probably gunned down because of his “professional activities.” He declined to elaborate.

Sardarian also suggested that the lone gunman who shot the police official was not an experienced killer. He argued that the investigators found eight cartridge cases at the scene of the crime, which suggests that half of the gunshots fired from close range missed the target. The gun used in the shooting did not have a silencer, added Sardarian.

Meanwhile, the chief of the Armenian police, Alik Sargsian, briefed Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian on details of the inquiry on Wednesday as he presented an annual report on his agency’s activities. Sargsian described Mherian’s murder as a “serious blow to the police” and said the investigators are working hard to identify and punish the guilty.

Both the prime minister and parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian expressed their condolences to Mherian’s family. In a written statement, Abrahamian condemned the “brutal crime” and urged the law-enforcement bodies to take “all necessary measures” to solve it.

Mherian was appointed as deputy police chief in July as part of a reshuffle of the higher echelon of Armenia’s security apparatus initiated by President Serzh Sarkisian. He is thought to have been mainly in charge of the police departments issuing passports and dealing with immigration and legal affairs.

Mherian had previously served as an adviser to former President Robert Kocharian, monitoring the implementation of the Armenian government’s strategy of combating corruption.

(Photolur photo: Security officers pictured outside Mherian's home shortly after the killing.)
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