Czech University Shooting: At Least 15 Are Killed in Prague Rampage

Fourteen people were killed and more than 20 others wounded in a shooting rampage at Charles University in the Czech Republic on Thursday, the authorities said. The gunman, a 24-year-old student in world history at the university, also killed himself after the shooting spree in central Prague.

The police say they believe he first killed his father in their family home in a village near the town of Kladno, outside of Prague, Andrew Moravcik, a spokesman for the Czech police, said in an interview. Some of the injured were in critical condition, he added.

The gunman was partly identified by the police as David K. European police officials often give only a first name and last initial for privacy reasons. Speaking at a news conference in Prague, the chief of the national police force, Martin Vondrasek, said the assailant “got inspired by a similar terrible event abroad.” He did not specify where.

But the authorities said they did not believe that the gunman’s actions were connected to international or domestic terrorism.

Radek Simik, an associate professor in linguistics at Charles University, said he was in the middle of a lesson in his classroom on the first floor when he and his five students heard shouting coming from the corridor.

“We thought it was a drunk guy or a rioter or something,” he said. As the sound got louder, he realize it was the authorities saying: “Police! Get out!” Then, a few minutes later, the shooting started, and he and his students rushed out of the building.

“The shooting continued when we were standing outside of the building,” he said. He and his students watched the police carry out the injured and others who appeared to be dead, he said.

The authorities were investigating whether violent, expletive-laden Russian-language messages posted on Telegram under the name David Kozak were connected to the gunman, the police chief added. One message said that two mass shootings in Russia had provided inspiration — one this month at a school in Bryansk near the border with Ukraine and the second in 2021 in Kazan, capital of the Russian region of Tatarstan.

“I was very inspired by Alina … very much,” a message posted on Dec. 10 said, three days after a 14-year-old Russian girl, Alina Afanaskina, opened fire on her classmates, killing two of them, with a pump shotgun in Bryansk. But, the message continued: “She certainly did not kill enough. I will try to fix that.”

Another post the same day said: “I always wanted to kill. I thought I would be a maniac in the future.”

A message on Telegram posted under the name of David Kozak a day earlier said, “This will be my diary as I go toward school shooting.” That message was edited on Thursday, but it is not clear how.

The channel went “private” late Thursday after the shooting. By that point, David K. was already dead.

If the gunman and the Telegram writer were the same person, it was not immediately clear how a native-born Czech who grew up in a small village in Central Bohemia would have acquired a mastery of the Russian language, including faddish slang used by young Russians online and a rich vocabulary of swear words.

The governor of the Prague region, Bohuslav Svoboda, said the gunman had fallen from the roof of the university’s faculty of arts building after opening fire on Jan Palach Square, an area of manicured lawns adjacent to the Vltava River that cuts through the Czech capital.

The police said the arts building, in Prague’s Old Town, had been evacuated. The square next to it was sealed off. Videos posted on social media showed people running away.

Mr. Moravcik, the spokesman for the Czech police, said of the suspect: “He had a lot of guns, special army guns, but all of these guns were legal.”

The interior minister, Vit Rakusan, said on social media that a large number of weapons and ammunition had been discovered in the faculty building. He added that the police believed it was likely that the assailant was also responsible for a previous double homicide in Prague, given what was found as his residence. No further details were released.

The episode on Thursday could have been much deadlier had the police not already been on the scene when the shooting began. Officers had information suggesting that an attack at the school was imminent and had evacuated one of its buildings, Mr. Moravcik said. The police then got information indicating that an assailant was in a different building and moved there to start evacuating people. Soon after, the shooting began, he said. No other information was released.

Mass shootings are rare in the Central European country. The shooting prompted the prime minister, Petr Fiala, to cut short a trip to the city of Olomouc in the east of the Czech Republic and rush back to Prague for an emergency government meeting Thursday evening.

It was Europe’s worst mass shooting since back-to-back massacres in Serbia in May killed 17 people and wounded more than 20. Those shootings in Serbia set off months of street protests against President Aleksandar Vucic. And the debate over how to prevent future violence was a major issue in a snap general election last Sunday.

President Petr Pavel of the Czech Republic said in a post on X that he was “shocked by the events at the faculty of arts of Charles University.” The university, The Associated Press reported, planned to tighten security immediately.

Though generally very peaceful, the Czech capital was on edge even before the killings, after a father and his baby daughter were found dead from gunshot wounds last week in Klanovice forest, a wealthy area east of Prague.

“I express my deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the Czech people as a whole,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said in a post on X on Thursday. “We stand and mourn with you.”

In 2019, a gunman killed six people in a hospital’s waiting room in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava. That had been the deadliest shooting since 2015, when a gunman killed eight people at a restaurant in Uhersky Brod, about 180 miles southeast of Prague.

The square where the shooting occurred is named after Jan Palach, a 20-year-old student who set himself on fire in 1969 to protest the invasion of what was then Czechoslovakia by troops from the Soviet Union and its allies in the Warsaw Pact. He died three days later, becoming a martyr to the anti-communist cause.

At the time of his death, he was studying history at Charles University, which was founded in 1348 and is one of the world’s oldest universities.

Barbora Petrova and Amanda E. Newman contributed reporting.