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PRAGUE, Czech Republic – A 24-year old Czech student killed more than 15 people and wounded at least 24 others at his Prague university on Thursday, December 21, before he was “eliminated”, police said, in what was the country’s worst-ever mass shooting.
Police Chief Martin Vondrasek said authorities were tipped off earlier in the day that the man was likely heading to Prague from his town in the Kladno region outside the capital with intentions of taking his own life. Shortly after that, the shooter’s father was found dead.
Police evacuated a Charles University Faculty of Arts building where the shooter was due to attend a lecture, but then were called in at the faculty’s different building, arriving within minutes after reports of the shooting came in, Vondrasek said.
“We have very fresh unconfirmed information from an account on a social network that he was supposedly inspired by one terrorist attack in Russia in the autumn of this year,” Vondrasek told reporters, adding the shooter was a legal holder of several firearms.
“It was a pre-mediated horrific act that started in the Kladno region and unfortunately ended here.”
The gunman’s death could have been a suicide but authorities are also investigating whether he may have been killed by a police bullet, Vondrasek added.
Police asked not to reveal the man’s identity, but his name as reported by some Czech media matched a police search report and an account on a social network where its owner talked about being inspired by a mass shooting in Russia.
Police sealed off the square and the area adjacent to the building, located in a busy part of town down the hill from Prague Castle on a popular street leading tourists to Old Town Square.
Media images showed students evacuating the building with their hands up in the air and others perched on a ledge near the roof trying to hide from the attacker.
“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.
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 and automatic weapon, and shooting toward the Manes Bridge,” he said. “Then I saw as he shot, put hands up and threw the weapon down on the street, it lay there on the pedestrian crossing,” he said.
Another witness, Ivo Havranek, 43, told Reuters via Zoom that he initially thought the “couple of bangs” he heard might have come from loud tourists or a nearby movie set.
“Then suddenly there were students and teachers running out of the building. I went through the crowd not realizing what is actually going on. I wasn’t ready to admit that something like that could happen in Prague,” he said. Only once he saw police officers with automatic rifles, he knew it was serious, he said.
“They shouted at me to run.”
Prime Minister Petr Fiala cancelled his trip to the east of the country and was en route to Prague, he said on X.
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. – Rappler.com