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Prague gunman who shot dead own father and killed 14 people also linked to forest murders

Killer also linked to forest murders last week before carrying out Czech Republic’s worst mass shooting

Jane Dalton,Alex Ross
Thursday 21 December 2023 22:08 GMT
Police surround Prague university building after deadly shooting
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Fourteen people were killed and more than 20 injured in the Czech Republic’s worst ever mass shooting, at a university in Prague.

Police believe the 24-year-old gunman killed his father in his home town just west of Prague, earlier in the day, and that he had also been planning to kill himself. An arrest warrant had been issued for the son.

Detectives are also working on the theory that the killer was responsible for the deaths of two people last week in the Klanovicky forest near Prague. They believe he chose his victims at random.

Armed police rushed to the university as witnesses reported seeing the killer firing from the roof of the Charles University faculty of arts in the country’s capital.

Scores of people fled the area around the university buildings, running down steps and cowering from the sound of gunfire in videos posted on social media.

Eight students perched dangerously in a crouched position on a ledge outside a high window in the faculty of arts building in an apparent bid to hide from the gunman.

There were also unconfirmed pictures showing chairs being used to barricade doors inside the university building next to Jan Palach Square.

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Armed police are seen on the balcony of the Charles University in central Prague (AFP via Getty Images)
An ambulance drives towards the university in Prague (AP)

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An email to staff at the faculty of arts of Charles University said a shooter was in one of its buildings and told staff to “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 message read.

Pavel Nedoma, director of Rudolfinum Gallery, which also is in the square, told Czech public television how he looked out of a window and saw a man shooting a gun towards the nearby Manes Bridge, which spans the Vltava River.

He told Czech broadcaster CT24: “Upstairs on the walkway of the faculty of arts, I saw a man standing with a gun in his hand and shooting towards the Mánes Bridge with certain delays.

“I watched what was happening from inside the Rudolfinum for a long time. I stayed in the building and was by the windows for as much cover as possible.”

The square was sealed off and people were urged to leave the surrounding streets.

Students inside the university contacted family and friends to say they were safe.

Deda Mrazek wrote on X: “I am OK. I was in the library at the time of the shooting. They sent us to the back of the computer lab where there are no windows. Word has now spread that the gunman is dead. We all call and reply to family and friends that we are ok.”

Another, identified only as Klara, who was among those sent outside for safety, told “It was terribly scary – there were a lot of policemen everywhere, who were shouting at us with submachine guns, telling us to run outside.”

Footage showed people running from the university building with their hands in the air as armed police officers entered. There was also video showing crowds of panicked tourists and residents running across the city’s famous Charles Bridge.

Newlywed British couple Tom and Rachael Leese were told to “stay inside and stay down” while they were having a drink in the Slivovitz Museum, close to where the shooting happened.

Mr Leese, a 34-year-old video producer from Surrey, said: “A policeman came in and started shouting loudly in what I assume was Czech. I asked for it in English and he said there was an active shooter and to stay inside and stay down.

“The staff were very calm, turned all the lights off very quickly and urged us to stay calm.”

Fourteen people were killed in the mass shooting in Prague (Getty Images)
Ambulances arrived quickly at the scene of the mass shooting (Anadolu via Getty Images)

Joe Hyland, 18, from Cornwall, another British tourist, who was in a street near the attack, told the BBC: “We heard gunshots and ran for cover in the metro after police shouted at everyone to run. It was very frightening.

“All of a sudden people started running. We didn’t know what was going on. We saw police going past us. They were shouting ‘run’.”

Czech police and the city’s rescue service have so far given no details on the victims, but said the gunman had been “eliminated”.

The suspect suffered “devastating injuries”, said Prague police chief Martin Vondrasek, adding that there was “nothing to suggest that he had an accomplice”.

Of the people injured, nine were in a serious condition, rescue services said.

Police later said 14 people had died, but it was not clear whether that included the gunman.

Officers searched the area, including the building’s balconies, for possible explosives.

Police officers secure the area close to the university after the shooting (AP)
A police van blocks a bridge near the university (AP)

Interior minister Vit Rakusan told Czech public television there was no other suspect at the scene and no imminent further danger, but he urged people to cooperate with police.

A large number of weapons were found at a university building, he revealed, adding: “We could have had high tens of victims without a quick police response.”

President Petr Pavel said: “I am shocked by the events at the faculty of arts of Charles University. I would like to express my deep regret and sincere condolences to the families and relatives of the victims that the shooting claimed.

“I want to thank the citizens for respecting the instructions of the security forces and providing maximum cooperation.”

Map published showing the location of Charles University faculty of arts, where the gunman launched the attack (Anadolu via Getty Images)

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 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 in the country’s far east.

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