Piles of ammunition and barricaded classrooms: Police reveal how Prague mass shooting unfolded

The victims include the head of the Institute of Musicology at Charles University and several foreign nationals

Alex Ross
Friday 22 December 2023 18:40 GMT
Moment armed police storm Prague university after shooting captured in bodycam footage

The gunman who killed 14 people during a rampage at a university in Prague took his own life after a rooftop shootout, police have revealed.

David Kozak, 24, took his own life by shooting himself as armed police cornered him on the balcony of the Charles University’s Faculty of Arts building. He had by then killed more than a dozen people and injured 25 more with an assault rifle. Lenka Hlavkova, the head of the Institute of Musicology at the university’s Faculty of Arts, is the first of his victims to be named, a mother who leaves behind a young family with two sons.

As Prague mourns its dead and tries to recover from the deadliest mass shooting in the Czech Republic’s history, authorities revealed how events unfolded on Thursday.

David Kozak killed himself after he was cornered by police on the balcony of the Charles University building (Czech Police)

A student at the university, Kozak is believed to have killed his father in his hometown of Hostoun before travelling 24km (15 miles) to the country’s capital to launch the devastating attack.

Police confirmed Kozak was also a key suspect in the murder of a man and a two-month-old baby discovered in a forest east of Prague on 15 December. They were first alerted to Kozak on Thursday by a friend who had received a suicidal message in a text from Kozak. Twenty minutes later, his father’s body was discovered in his house where officers also found weapons and explosives.

Lenka Hlavkova, the head of the Institute of Musicology, was killed in the attack (Supplied)
The moment police stormed the university campus in search of the gunman, who was on the roof of the building (Police of the Czech Republic)

A nationwide search was launched, and police were told Kozak was heading to one of the university campuses. An hour later, shooting started at the Faculty of Arts building.

Bodycam footage played at a media briefing showed officers racing inside the building and scaling the stairs, at first unable to find the suspect, before an officer outside alerted them that Kozak was on the roof.

Pictures on social media appeared to show the shooter dressed in black with a large gun aimed towards the square from a balcony. Nearby, on an outside ledge of the building, eight terrified students could be seen hiding.

Kozak pointing a rifle at the square below (Supplied)

As police outside exchanged fire with the shooter, armed officers closed in on Kozak on the fourth-floor balcony, and the city’s police director Petr Matejcek said the gunman had killed himself when approached.

“What I saw inside the corridors, which were piles of ammunition, unbelievable quantities, if that person hadn’t been cornered in time he might, or might not of, have continued,” Mr Matejcek said. “I can say that I believe the fast response and arrival of police officers on the scene prevented further bloodshed and further victims.”

During the attack, students barricaded themselves in classrooms, too scared to go outside while the building was evacuated. One student, Jakob Weizman, who was inside a barricaded classroom, said: “[We] locked the door before the shooter tried to open it.”

Prague’s police chief Petr Matejcek, centre, said his officers’ actions prevented further bloodshed (AFP via Getty Images)

After Kozak killed himself, armed police scoured the building for possible explosive devices or accomplices and on Friday, officials said they believed he had acted on his own, possibly inspired by massacres abroad.

Using the Telegram messaging platform Kozak praised the killer behind a school student in Kaza, Russia, in 2021. And in one chilling post, he wrote: “I want to do school shooting and possibly suicide.” Kozak was reportedly studying for a masters degree in world history with a special focus on the history of Poland. He had a lecture at 2pm on the day of the massacre.

Mourners lay flowers outside the university building where Kozak carried out the killing (PA)

At the press conference, police officials were questioned on the link between Kozak and the murder of the man and the baby in Klanovice forest, located east of Prague.

The lead investigator in the case said that despite Kozak being a suspect, he was not being followed. He added that officers were waiting on “ballistic test results” in regards to the killing. The country police force said yesterday it was stepping up security measures until 1 January.

Among those paying their respects to the dead at the university was the Czech president Petr Pavel. He said: “No one can imagine the fear and mental strain they went through yesterday. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank everyone for the sincere condolences and words of support, which come from all around the world.”

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