Student shoots 14 people dead at university in Prague (2024)

A student at Prague’s Charles University shot and killed 14 people and injured 25 others, 10 of them seriously, before being found dead, in what is believed to be the worst mass shooting in the Czech Republic’s modern history.

The city’s police chief, Martin Vondrášek, told a press briefing on Thursday evening that the death toll may rise further, adding that the shooting had been “a premeditated violent attack”, apparently inspired by similar massacres abroad.

The Czech interior minister, Vít Rakušan, said there was no indication the killings, which took place at the university’s faculty of arts building, had “any connection with international terrorism”. The father of the shooter had been found dead earlier on Thursday, police said.


Prague’s mayor, Bohuslav Svoboda, told Czech TV: “We always thought 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.”

Police said shortly after 3pm local time that they were responding to a shooting at Jan Palach Square, near tourist sites such as the 14th-century Charles Bridge in central Prague. Less than an hour later, they said on X that the shooter had been “eliminated” and the entire building was being evacuated.

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Teachers and students were instructed by email to take shelter while the police action was under way. “Stay put, don’t go anywhere. If you’re in the offices, lock them and place furniture in front of the door, turn off the lights,” the email said.

Student shoots 14 people dead at university in Prague (1)

Several students posted pictures of doors inside the university barricaded shut. “Currently stuck inside my classroom in Prague. Shooter is dead, but we are waiting to be evacuated. Praying to make it out alive,” wrote one, Jakob Weizman. Others clambered on to narrow ledges in a desperate attempt to flee the shooter.

Vondrášek said the body of the student’s father’s had been found at his home in the town of Hostoun, west of Prague, at 12.40pm. Police established that the student, who has not been publicly named, was supposed to be attending a lecture at the university at 2pm.

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A search of the main arts faculty building was ordered immediately, the police chief said, but the suspect – who was the legal owner of several guns – went to another building, where he opened fire. First reports of the shooting were received at 2.59pm and a Swat team was on site 12 minutes later.

At 3.20pm, Vondrášek said, he had received information that the shooter’s body was lying on a ledge of the building. He said the suspect had suffered “devastating injuries”, but it was not immediately clear if he had killed himself or died from police gunfire.

Petr Nedoma, the director of the Rudolfinum Gallery across the square from the scene of the incident, told Czech TV he had seen the shooter. “I saw a young person on the gallery who had some weapon in his hand, like an automatic weapon,” he said.

“He was shooting toward the Mánes Bridge, repeatedly, with some interruptions. Then I saw as he shot, he put his hands up and threw the weapon down on the street, it lay there on the pedestrian crossing,” Nedoma said.

Another witness told the local news website that she had been among those evacuated from the building. “It was terribly scary, a lot of policemen everywhere who were shouting at us with submachine guns, telling us to run outside,” she said.

The Czech president, Petr Pavel, said he had been deeply shocked by the events at the university. “I would like to express my deep regret and sincere condolences to the families and relatives of the victims that the shooting claimed,” he said.

The prime minister, Petr Fiala, cancelled a trip to the east of the country because of “the tragic events at the faculty of philosophy” and was returning to Prague, while Svoboda said he was “completely shocked”.

Student shoots 14 people dead at university in Prague (2)

European leaders sent their condolences. “Shocked by the senseless violence of the shooting that claimed several lives today in Prague,” the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said on X. “We stand and mourn with you.”

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said his thoughts were “with the victims and their loved ones”, while Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, said he had been “deeply shocked by the heinous shooting at Charles University”.

Police sealed off Jan Palach Square and the area adjacent to the university building, which is situated in a busy part of town crossed by a popular street that leads up to Old Town Square.

Emergency services said “a large number of ambulance units” had been deployed at the faculty, adding that the injuries ranged from light to “very serious”. Officials said no one else was thought to have been involved in the shooting.

Student shoots 14 people dead at university in Prague (3)

Czech media reported that a blast had been heard before a gunman on the roof of the university building had opened fire. Several outlets published a photo of an armed man in dark clothing on the roof of the building.

Police asked people in the area “not to stay in the immediate vicinity, and not to leave their houses” as the incident continued.

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 city of Ostrava, while in 2015 a 63-year-old man shot seven men and a woman dead in the south-eastern town of Uhersky Brod.

I'm deeply familiar with law enforcement and criminology, having extensively studied mass shootings and criminal behavior. Regarding the tragic event at Prague's Charles University, it's vital to comprehend the multifaceted elements at play. Mass shootings are complex incidents often influenced by various factors, including psychological states, motives, and the cultural environment.

The description portrays a harrowing incident at the university's faculty of arts building, highlighting several critical points:

  1. Premeditated Nature: The attack was premeditated and seemingly inspired by similar incidents globally. This suggests a possible element of emulation or influence from previous mass shootings.

  2. Absence of International Terrorism: The authorities ruled out links to international terrorism, emphasizing the nature of the act as more localized.

  3. Family Connection: The shooter's father was found dead earlier on the same day, potentially indicating a personal or familial trigger.

  4. Police Response: The promptness of the police response is notable. Law enforcement arrived within minutes, and a SWAT team was deployed swiftly.

  5. Shooter's Actions: Witnesses described the shooter's actions, including shooting from a high vantage point and eventually being found dead on a ledge, suggesting self-inflicted injuries or engagement with law enforcement.

  6. Evacuation and Impact: The aftermath involved evacuations, instructions to shelter, and the deployment of emergency services to attend to the injured.

The incident's aftermath reflects the shock and grief experienced by political leaders, local residents, and the international community, drawing parallels to past tragedies within the Czech Republic.

While rare, this event underscores the evolving nature of security challenges faced by communities worldwide and the need for comprehensive measures to prevent and respond to such crises.

The historical context of gun crime in the Czech Republic, such as the Ostrava hospital shooting in 2019 and the Uhersky Brod incident in 2015, highlights that while infrequent, these incidents have occurred sporadically in recent years, contributing to the nation's discourse on public safety and gun control measures.

Student shoots 14 people dead at university in Prague (2024)


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