Deadly Shooting at Charles University Claims 14 Lives, Injures 25

Yesterday’s attack is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the Czech Republic. Credit: Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs via X.

Prague, Dec 22 (CTK) – A mass shooting at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in central Prague yesterday left 14 people dead and 25 injured, 10 of them seriously.

Police began receiving reports of a shooting at 2.59pm. First responders were on the scene within a few minutes, and a Swat team within 12 minutes. The perpetrator was found dead at 3.20pm, apparently by suicide, though it has not yet been confirmed whether he was killed by police fire. 

During the attack, students and faculty barricaded themselves in offices while waiting to be evacuated, with some students forced to hide on an external ledge.

Czech police president, Martin Vondrášek, said in a briefing that the suspect is a 24-year-old Charles University student from Hostoun, west of Prague, though police have not yet confirmed his identity due to the extent of his injuries. The suspect was inspired by similar shootings abroad, according to Vondrášek.

The suspect’s father was found dead in his home in Hostoun earlier in the day, and police subsequently ordered the evacuation of a building where the suspect was due to have a lecture at 2pm. However, he went instead to a different university building, where he opened fire.

Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan (STAN) said there was “no indication this crime has any connection with international terrorism,” or any organised group. 

The attack is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the Czech Republic. Vondrasek said there was a huge arsenal of weapons and ammunition in the faculty building. Had it not been for the quick action of the police, the casualties would have been multiplied many times over, he said.

According to Vondrasek, police are investigating a theory that the shooter is also responsible for killing a 32-year-old man and a two-month old baby in the Klanovice Forest on the outskirts of Prague six days ago. He said the connection between the two cases is linked to what police found at the scene of the father’s death yesterday..

Police are currently establishing the identity of the victims. According to Vondrasek, all of them were killed in the university building, although police found one of them lying in the street outside. 

At the same time, police are searching for more weapons. The likely perpetrator was the legal owner of several weapons, but Vondrasek did not confirm or deny whether he was also using illegally held arms. He also fired either a long gun or an extension gun from the ledge of the school towards Manes Bridge.

Rakusan said last night that the Czech Republic’s gun legislation is relatively strict and well set. He said it is difficult to predict that a person with no criminal record would commit such a serious crime.

Rakusan commended the police response as highly professional, noting that “they bravely entered the building and immediately returned fire.” 

Leaders across Europe sent their condolences to the Czech Republic. At an emergency meeting last night, the government agreed on a day of national mourning on Saturday, 23 December, with state flags lowered to half-mast because of the tragedy.

Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) called for a minute of silence on Saturday in memory of the victims of the shooting, with bells ringing across the country in commemoration.

The last time the Czech Republic held a national day of mourning was to commemorate the sudden death of Senate President Jaroslav Kubera (ODS) on 3 February 2020, and before that on 12 October 2019, the day of the funeral of pop singer Karel Gott.

A three-day period of state mourning was declared before Christmas on 21-23 December 2011 to honour the memory of the late President Vaclav Havel, and a two-day mourning on 17-18 April 2010 after a plane crash near Smolensk killed many Polish government officials, including President Lech Kaczynski.

Meanwhile, at a press conference last night after he attended the extraordinary cabinet meeting, Czech President Petr Pavel called for restraint, appealing to politicians, media, and citizens not to use the tragedy to attack the police politically or spread misinformation. 

Rakusan also called on citizens to share only verified information from the police, saying the spreading disinformation was probably a premeditated attack by a “Russian troll farm.” He said he plans to refute the most serious false rumours on Friday. He will be at the police headquarters together with Police President Martin Vondrasek overnight.

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