A gunman killed at least 14 people and wounded at least 25 others at a Prague university on Thursday before he was killed, according to police and Prague emergency services, marking the country’s worst-ever mass shooting.
Czech police responded to the shooting at Charles University’s faculty of arts building in Jan Palach Square shortly after 3 p.m. local time. Police said the father of the shooter was found dead earlier on Thursday. The shooter was a student in the faculty of arts.
“We always thought that this was a thing that did not concern us. Now it turns out that, unfortunately, our world is also changing and the problem of the individual shooter is emerging here as well,” Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda told Czech Television.
Police sealed off the square and the area adjacent to the building, located in a busy part of town with a popular street leading tourists to Old Town Square.
A Czech TV live broadcast showed several ambulances and police cars with flashing lights lined up alongside the building with sirens blaring.
Prime Minister Petr Fiala expressed his condolences on social media to those affected by what he characterized as an “inexcusable attack.” He cancelled a planned trip to the east of the country and was en route to Prague instead, he said.
Police had earlier said more than 15 people were killed in the shooting at the university in central Prague, including the gunman. It was not clear whether the most recent death toll included the shooter, but authorities warned that the death toll could still rise.
University authorities said they would tighten security in university buildings with immediate effect.
“We mourn the loss of life of members of our university community, express our deepest condolences to all the bereaved and our thoughts are with all those affected by the tragedy,” Charles University said in a statement.
The Czech government declared Saturday a national day of mourning.
Students, witnesses describe chaotic scene
Petr Nedoma, director of the Rudolfinum Gallery at a concert hall across Palach Square, told Czech TV he saw the shooter.
“I saw a young person on the gallery who had some weapon in his hand, like an automatic weapon, and shooting toward the Manes Bridge,” he said.
One witness told news website iDnes.cz that they got off at the tram stop by the school and “suddenly I heard shooting.”
Klara, a student, told the news website she was among those who police evacuated from the building.
“It was terribly scary, there were a lot of policemen everywhere, who were shouting at us with submachine guns, telling us to run outside,” she said.
An email sent to staff and students had said the shooter was in one of the buildings.
“Don’t go anywhere,” the email said. “If you’re in the offices, lock them and place furniture in front of the door, turn off the lights.”
Gunman inspired by similar massacre in Russia, police say
Czech police have identified the shooter as a 24-year-old. He had studied in the Charles University’s humanities faculty, where he earned a bachelor of arts in history and European studies in 2022.
He also had a channel on Telegram, in which he wrote in Cyrillic that he wanted to carry out a school shooting and was inspired by a similar tragedy that had taken place in Russia, Czech police confirmed to the media.
In other posts, Czech police said he planned to inflict as much pain as possible.
Prague police Chief Martin Vondrasek said that based on a search of his home, the gunman was also suspected in the killing of another man and his two-month-old daughter on Dec. 15, in the east of Prague.
The BBC reported that in an evening press conference, Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan said a large number of weapons were found at the university building.
“We could have had high tens of victims without a quick police response,” he said.
The Czech government quickly sought to quell concerns that the massacre was backed by foreign interests.
“There’s no indication that it has anything to do with international terrorism,” said Rakusan.
Gun crime is relatively rare in the Czech Republic. In December 2019, a 42-year-old gunman killed six people at a hospital waiting room in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava before fleeing and fatally shooting himself, police said.
In 2015, a man fatally shot eight people and then killed himself at a restaurant in Uhersky Brod.
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