In the bloodiest mass shooting in Czech Republic history, a student opened fire on Thursday at a Prague university, killing at least 14 and wounded more than 20, according to officials.
According to Prague Police Chief Martin Vondrasek, the shooting occurred in the building housing the philosophy department at Charles University. The shooter was a student at that university. Authorities also said that the gunman had died. No one knows his identity just yet.
Earlier, Vondrasek had reported 15 deaths and 24 injuries; but, by nightfall, he had revised the number to 14 deaths and 25 injuries. The modification was left unexplained by him. The death toll might go up, according to authorities.
Authorities in Jan Palach Square did not comment on the victims or the circumstances surrounding the gunshot that occurred at a building close to the Vltava River. The Czech Minister of the Interior Vit Rakusan stated that the investigation has not uncovered any evidence of ties to radical ideologies or organizations.
Police in Vondrasek’s hometown of Hostoun, which is located to the west of Prague, believe the gunman murdered his father earlier Thursday. Vondrasek added that the gunman had intentions to end his own life. His explanation was vague.
In a later statement on Thursday, Vondrasek stated that the gunman was also believed to have killed another man and his 2-month-old daughter in Prague on December 15th, according to search warrants executed at his residence.
The gunman was characterized by the chief as a model student who had no prior record of criminal activity, but no additional details were shared. There was “nothing to suggest that he had an accomplice.” Vondrasek added that the gunman had “devastating injuries,” although it was unclear whether he took his own life or was killed in a gunfight with police.
According to Vondrasek, the shooter had legal possession of multiple firearms; on Thursday, he was described by police as being “well thought out, a horrible act” due to his heavy weaponry and ammo load. Authorities at the university have announced that, effective immediately, security measures would be tightened in all university facilities.
“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.
Located in the heart of Prague’s Old Town, Jan Palach Square is home to the building that was the site of the shooting. Thousands of tourists flock to the charming Old Town Square every year to see the famous Christmas market, which is only a short stroll away.
Fearing that outside forces were behind the massacre, the authorities wasted no time in trying to allay public fears. “There’s no indication that it has anything to do with international terrorism,” Rakusan said. “It’s a horrible crime, something the Czech Republic has never experienced,” he said.
The director of the adjacent Rudolfinum Gallery, Pavel Nedoma, claimed to have witnessed the shooting from a window when he was on the building’s balcony. Authorities ordered the evacuation of all occupants, and police stated that they were continuing their search for explosives, which included the balcony.
Located on the square, the structure offers a view of Prague Castle—the seat of the Czech presidency—from a bridge across the river. German, French, and Slovakian presidents, as well as EU and Israeli leaders, expressed their “shocked” and sympathies to the victims’ families. President Petr Pavel also extended his sentiments.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the press secretary for the president, expressed her condolences in a message. “The president and the first lady are praying for the families who lost loved ones and everyone else who has been affected by this senseless act of violence,” Jean-Pierre said.
“On behalf of the United States, we send our condolences and also wish the survivors of this tragic event a speedy recovery.” In remembrance of the victims of the massacre, Prime Minister Petr Fiala announced Saturday that the Czech government has established a national day of mourning.
Uhersky Brod, a village in southeastern Ukraine, was the site of the deadliest mass shooting in the country in 2015, when a shooter killed eight people before taking his own life. Terror and mayhem reigned on Thursday at the landmark monument, which is usually a popular destination for tourists, students, and others.
Ambulances and police cars sped across the bridge, their sirens blaring. Police officers cordoned off the vacant plaza. As the cameras rolled, survivors could be seen fleeing the building or ducking behind a nearby wall. While diving instructor Ivo Havranek was close to the structure, he heard what sounded like gunfire, though he wasn’t sure it was gunfire.
“Only at the moment when I saw the fully equipped riot police with bulletproof vests and shields, it looked to me that I had found myself in a movie,” Havranek said. “But it was obvious that nobody was shooting a movie.”
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