‘I saw students jumping from the windows’ Meduza talks to eyewitnesses from the deadly university shooting in Perm

Students at Perm State University after the attack on September 20, 2021Anastasia Yakovleva / AP / Scanpix / LETA

On the morning of September 20, Timur Bekmansurov opened fire at a university campus in the Russian city of Perm. The 18-year-old shooter killed six people and injured at least 28 others. He was wounded by police and taken into custody. Meduza interviewed eyewitnesses who were at Perm State University at the time of the attack. In their own words, here’s what they saw.

Alexander Stabrovsky

Projects Department manager, former director of Perm State University’s Museum of History

I was in my office on the first floor of the eighth building (where the shooter carried out the attack) with my colleague Vitaly, [when] his car alarm went off. He left the office and I went to the window. I saw a guy with a gun walking up the alley. He put the weapon in front of him. I didn’t attach any importance to this: the students are probably rehearsing something, I thought. He didn’t seem anxious at all. He walked steadily, like in a parade — and then, bang!

I didn’t see that the guy was firing shots. [After the bang] I looked back at the door and Vitaly ran into my office. He shut the door and there were a few more bangs. It didn’t sound like gunfire, but I thought there was a terrorist attack at the university.

It turns out the guy went into the [main] building and opened fire there. He shot our colleague; he’s barely in his forties, now he’s in intensive care. He was just walking down the hallway [going] about his business and they ran into each other.

A screenshot from a video taken by an eyewitness

[The shooter] went up to the second floor. Then we heard people jumping out of the windows. A guy fell to the ground by the window I was standing near. Apparently he broke his leg or something — he couldn’t run away. He lay there until it was over, emergency services took him away [after the shooter was detained].

The shooter walked around the second floor and fired at everyone indiscriminately. We all locked ourselves in our offices. An instructor who was with students on the second floor [secured] the door with a rope and [the shooter] wasn’t able to get in.

The gunfire lasted about seven minutes. Then there was dead silence for 20 minutes — nothing was heard.

After 20 minutes, the police, paramedics, and emergency services arrived. They rattled our door threateningly: “Police, police, come out with your hands up, face the wall!” Within an hour we were taken outside, [where] the students were standing around.

Students being evacuated from the Perm State University campusStudents being evacuated from the Perm State University campusOlga Yushkova / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

I think [the reason for the attack] is simply autumn, aggravation. The psychology of modern-day morons is well understood already. That said, there was no special training at the university for how to act in such situations. I’ve worked at this university for 50 years, I’m 73-years-old. My daughter-in-law is afraid that I might have a heart attack against the backdrop [of all this], but so far I’m holding up.

Vitaly Prizyuk

Editor-in-chief of Perm State University magazine

My car was parked in his [the shooter’s] path. He walked by it towards the entrance [to the building] and opened fire. But I didn’t see him [at first], I just heard my [car] alarm. I threw on my jacket and went outside to check what had happened. When I went into the hallway to run to my car — at the time I didn’t know what was happening — there were already about 50 people crowded there.

The guy walked down the street and fired at the entrance, [he was] about 200 meters from the building. We didn’t know what to do, and then he came into the corridor and started shooting. Everyone fled into their offices.

There were so many shots and they were so strong that we thought that many people were attacking the university. But it turned out he was alone.

Now we’re getting together with family members and colleagues. We’re all sitting together. We don’t know what to expect.

Police arriving at Perm State University, where the shooting took placePolice arriving at Perm State University, where the shooting took placeAnna Vikhareva / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

Ivan Pechichshev

Journalism lecturer in the Faculty of Philology 

Today I went to [give] a lecture to my students in the university’s second building. I was a little bit late, the clock said 11:30. [As I was] walking by the eighth building, I saw students jumping from the windows on the second floor and running away.

I began asking [people] what was happening. They told me [it was] a shooting. I heard loud bangs [from] inside the building. It was scary. Everyone scattered in all directions. I forced my way into the second building to [get to] my students (there’s a passageway to get to it from the eighth building). Our security [guards] had already responded, the doors to this building were locked, and the rest of the buildings were too. I knocked and explained. Eventually, they let me in.

In the end, I got to my students. They were in shock, they were very frightened. It’s a second-year course — they’re around 18 years old. The girls were in tears. They didn’t know the attacker. They didn’t understand what was happening. They just read about everything on social media with horror.

The hallway inside the Perm State University building after the shootingThe hallway inside the Perm State University building after the shootingRussian Investigative Committee / AP / Scanpix / LETA

I tried to reduce the panic. I explained that we are relatively safe — that our building is locked and that all the passageways from building to building were closed. We locked the classroom, barricaded ourselves [inside], and sat like that for an hour and a half.

The university didn’t have any plans in place for such situations. Today, we were simply told to stay in our classrooms over the loudspeaker. And I asked my students not to read social networks, so as not to panic. Later, we were told that we could go home, and they took us out.

We won’t give up Because you’re with us

I’m with you, Meduza

Interviews by Irina Kravtsova 

Abridged translation by Eilish Hart


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