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Prague mass shooting timeline: What we know about the Charles University attack that left 14 dead

The killer has been named as David Kozak, a student at the university who is suspected of killing a father and daughter last week

Athena Stavrou
Friday 22 December 2023 11:54 GMT
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Moment armed police storm Prague university after shooting captured in bodycam footage

The popular tourist destination of Prague has been left reeling after a lone gunman opened fire on students at a top university, in what has become the country’s worst mass shooting.

Social media videos captured the panic that broke out on Thursday afternoon at Charles University in the city centre, with tourists taking cover and a group of desperate students clinging to a building ledge in a bid to save their lives.

Czech police raced to the scene of the shooting at Jan Palach Square shortly after 3pm, and were confronted with the horrifying reality that 13 people had been killed, with the gunman taking his own life shortly afterwards.

The gunman, who has been named as 24-year-old David Kozak, killed himself after attempting to hide in a gallery and being followed to the roof.

Described as an excellent student with no previous criminal convictions, it has since emerged that Kozak is suspected to be responsible for the death of his father, and the fatal shooting of a man and his two-month-old daughter in a woodland area last week.

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David Kozak has been identified as the gunman

Ahead of the mass shooting at Charles University, he is thought to have kept a diary in Russian on messaging app Telegram, writing: “I want to do a school shooting and possibly suicide.”

Among those that have been injured, 10 of them are in a serious condition, Prague‘s Police Chief Martin Vondrasek told reporters.

Here’s everything we know about the shooting and suspected gunman so far:

Police said they were still searching the area on Thursday afternoon, including the balcony, for possible explosives.

What has happened?

Czech police said shortly after 3pm that they were responding to a shooting at Charles University’s faculty of arts building in Jan Palach Square, central Prague.

It has since emerged that authorities were tipped off earlier in the day that a man was likely heading to Prague from his town in the Kladno region outside the capital with intentions of taking his own life.

A friend had contacted the police at 12.26pm to say she had received a suicidal text message, and the individual was not answering his calls.

Alarmed by a series of posts on Telegram, police attended his home address and discovered Kozak’s father’s body at 12.45pm. Weapons and explosives were found at the scene, and it was established that Kozak was due to attend a lecture at 2pm in a university building just off Old Town Square in Prague.

At 1.15pm, a national search was declared for the suspect, and a request was made at 1.27pm to search the Faculty of Arts. Armed police rushed to the scene and evacuated a building by 2.22pm, however information was received at 2.49pm that Kozak was at the university sit in nearby Jan Palach Square.

At 2.59pm, reports were received that shots were being fired, with the first officers entering the building within four minutes. Dramatic footage played at a press conference of them methodically clearing the floors while evacuating distressed students.

An email sent to staff and students at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University had said a shooter was in one of its buildings and had told staff to “stay put”.

Images and videos on social media show crowds of people running from the square, while students barricaded themselves in classrooms by piling furniture up against the doors. Other images appear to show the shooter dressed in black and carrying a large gun as he aims it towards the square.

Images and videos on social media shows eight students perched on a ledge to hide from the gunman

The area was sealed off with people urged to leave the surrounding streets and stay inside. One British couple, who had been celebrating their honeymoon, said they were left “terrified” after a police officer ran into their restaurant and shouted for them to stay down.

The director of Prague Police told a press conference: “I saw piles of ammunition in the corridors, it was incredible” he recalls.

He believes the gunman would have gone on to harm more people if he hadn’t gone to the university’s balcony, “where he eventually died”.

During the shooting rampage, 13 people were killed before the gunman took his own life after realising that he was surrounded. Several others have undergone critical surgery since being rushed to hospital, while various victims had been shot through the head, chest and arms.

Three of those injured are foreign nations - two people from the United Arab Emirates and one from the Netherlands.

What do we know about the gunman?

While he has not officially been identified by Czech police, David Kozak has been named as the perpetrator behind the country’s worst mass shooting.

He has not been linked to any extremist ideologies and police believe that he acted alone and had no accomplices. However, chilling posts on the encrypted social media app appear to suggest he was influenced by a recent school shooting in Russia, where a 14-year-old girl killed her classmate and injured five others in Bryansk, western Russia.

“Alina Afanaskina helped me too much,” the message said. “I always wanted to kill, I thought I would become a maniac in the future. I realised that it was much more profitable to do mass murders rather than ­serial ones.”

A policeman guards the area outside the building of Philosophical Faculty

Police are also working on the theory that the gunman was responsible for the deaths of two people last week in the Klanovicky forest near Prague.

A 32-year-old man and his two-month-old daughter were killed on 15 December with investigating police believing it to be a random attack. Officers said Kovak was on the list of suspects, but they had not managed to speak to him yet.

Current evidence suggests he is the perpetrator but a police spokesperson said they are awaiting the results of ballistic tests to confirm his involvement.

Ambulances arrived quickly at the scene of the mass shooting after 14 people were killed

What have the authorities said?

“There’s no indication that it has anything to do with international terrorism,” Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan said.

“It’s a horrible crime, something the Czech Republic has never experienced,” he said.

The victims were all Czechs, with local media reporting that three of those injured are foreign nationals.

Authorities have confirmed that the suspected killer was a student at the university but withheld his identity

Czech prime minister Petr Fiala has thanked emergency services that responded, saying his thoughts are with the bereaved.

“There is no justification for this horrific act. Like many of you, I feel profound sadness and disgust in the face of this sickening violence,” he wrote on social media.

Gun crime is relatively rare in the Czech Republic and this incident is thought to be the worst one in its history.

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.

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