The Russian school shootings that inspired Prague gunman to carry out university massacre

David Kozak allegedly described actions of 14-year-old schoolgirl who shot classmates as ‘last straw’

Holly Evans,Tara Cobham
Sunday 24 December 2023 15:55 GMT
Moment armed police storm Prague university after shooting captured in bodycam footage

As the Czech Republic grieves for those killed in its worst-ever mass shooting, the country is desperately searching for answers over the gunman’s motive for such a horrific act.

Armed with as many as seven weapons, history student David Kozak, 24, opened fire on his peers and classmates at Charles University in central Prague on 21 December, killing at least 14 and injuring dozens of others.

With no links to extremist ideology or terror organisations, it appears that a deep and morbid fascination with previous school shootings had been the lone gunman’s inspiration.

History student David Kozak, 24, opened fire on his peers and classmates at Charles University in central Prague on 21 December, killing at least 14 and injuring dozens of others (Czech Police)

Authorities are probing a series of violent, Russian-language messages allegedly posted on Kozak’s Telegram, including one that indicates inspiration for the attack may have been drawn from two previous mass shootings in Russia – one occurring this month at a school in Bryansk near the Ukraine border, and the second in 2021 in Kazan, the capital of the Russian region of Tatarstan.

“I was very inspired by Alina … very much,” a message shared on 10 December said, just three days after a 14-year-old Russian schoolgirl, Alina Afanaskina, opened fire on her classmates.

Afanaskina entered her secondary school in the Bryansk region armed with her father’s shotgun and a knife hidden in her clothes on 7 December. After entering a biology classroom, she opened fire, killing one of her fellow students and injuring another four, before then killing herself.

Investigators work at the scene of a shooting by Alina Afanaskina in a classroom of a school in Bryansk, Russia, in December (Russian Investigative Committee)

It has been reported in Russian media that her twin sister was in the classroom at the time, and that Alina had been bullied and struggled with her classmates.

Afanaskina’s actions seemed to have captured Kozak’s imagination to the extent that he described them as his “last straw”. He allegedly wrote on Telegram: “I always wanted to kill, I thought I would become a maniac in the future. Then, when Ilnaz did the shooting, I realized that it was much more profitable to do mass rather than serial murders. I sat.. Waited.. Dreamed.. Wanted.. But Alina became the last straw. It was as if she had come to my aid from heaven just in time.”

Also referenced in this social media post is Ilnaz Galyaviev, a 19-year-old shooter who entered his former school in Tatarstan, in the western part of Russia, in May 2021, killing nine people and injuring another 23.

Ambulances and police cars and a truck are parked at a school after a shooting by Ilnaz Galyaviev in Kazan, Russia, in May 2021 (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

In a chilling post hours before he carried out the fatal attack, Galyaviev posted a photo on Telegram of himself in a facemask with the word God in Russian written on it, with the caption: “Today I will kill a huge amount of biowaste and shoot myself.”

Upon arriving, he shot a security guard who managed to raise the panic alarm, before marching through the corridors killing two teachers and seven students.

After failing to open locked doors, he set off an improvised explosive device before eventually running out of ammunition and he was arrested.

He has since been sentenced to life imprisonment in a special regime colony after pleading guilty to the murder of two or more persons.

Mourners lay tributes at Prague university after at least 14 killed in mass shooting (PA)

One of Kozak’s alleged final Telegram messages read: “Let me introduce myself. I’m David. I want to commit a school shooting and maybe suicide.”

His motives for this week’s attack are not yet known, but police were reportedly already searching for him at the time of the incident.

Kozak’s murder campaign is now thought to have started last week, after a 32-year-old father and his baby daughter were found dead in the national park forest of Klanovicky, 15 miles from Prague.

With little CCTV and clues available, Kozak had appeared on the list of suspects but had not yet been interviewed by the police. “We lacked only a few days to prevent the tragic event [in Prague],” said Ales Strach, the head of the Prague homicide department.

People, one wrapped in a thermal blanket, walk near the building of Philosophical Faculty of Charles University in downtown Prague, Czech Republic, on Thursday (AP)

At 12.26pm on Thursday, police received information that Kozak was suicidal and was not answering his phone, before his father’s body was found in Hostoun.

After realising he was due to deliver a lecture at 2pm at a site near the Old Town Square, officers announced a national search and evacuated the building.

However, Kozak travelled to the Faculty of Arts in Jan Palach Square where he opened fire on students and teachers, with several forced to hide on window ledges and barricade themselves in classrooms.

After realising he was surrounded by armed police, he inflicted “devastating injuries” upon himself and was pronounced dead.

A national day of mourning has been announced while schools and institutions across Prague have ramped up security, in the wake of hate comments being published online.

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