Authorities In a horrifying incident at a university building in downtown Prague on Thursday, a student opened fire, resulting in the worst-ever mass shooting in the Czech Republic. At least 14 people lost their lives, and more than 20 sustained injuries, marking a devastating event for the nation.
Suspect’s Fate and Police Investigation
Authorities confirmed that the suspect, who remained unnamed, is deceased. Prague Police Chief Martin Vondrasek revealed that the suspect suffered “devastating injuries,” leaving the nature of these injuries undisclosed. There were no indications of the shooter’s connection to a terrorist organization, and Vondrasek emphasized that the attack seemed to be “well thought out” with no apparent accomplice.
Sealed Off Campus and Evacuations: Authorities
Following the gunfire, officers sealed off Jan Palach Square in downtown Prague and evacuated the building housing the philosophy faculty of Charles University. The location is in close proximity to tourist-heavy areas like Old Town Square and offers a view of Prague Castle.
Uncertain Motive and Potential Additional Victims
Vondrasek raised questions about the motive, stating that the police were investigating whether an elderly man killed in a nearby town was the father of the suspected shooter. The death toll initially reported was 15, with 24 wounded, and authorities warned that the numbers could rise. The suspect might be linked to previous shooting deaths in the Klanovicky Forest east of Prague.
Firearm Ownership and Ongoing Investigation
The shooter, reportedly a legal gun owner without a criminal history, possessed a significant arsenal of weapons. Authorities continued to search for possible explosives in the area, including the building’s balconies. Interior Minister Vit Rakusan assured the public that there was no further danger, and no additional assailant was found at the scene.
Reactions and National Mourning:
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala canceled his scheduled events and declared Saturday as a national day of mourning to honor the victims. Flags will be lowered to half-mast, and a minute of silence on Saturday was encouraged. President Petr Pavel expressed deep regret and condolences, while the White House extended sympathies to the affected families.
Eyewitness Accounts and Immediate Response
Eyewitnesses described the shock and chaos as students and teachers fled the building. Authorities, including police officers armed with automatic rifles, responded swiftly to the scene. Prime Minister Fiala headed to Prague to address the situation.
Czech Republic’s Gun Laws
The incident has sparked discussions about the Czech Republic’s gun laws, which, by European standards, are relatively lenient. However, they still involve prerequisites such as background checks, health clearances, and safety legislation tests.
Before this incident, the Czech Republic’s worst mass shooting occurred in 2015 in the town of Uhersky Brod, where a gunman killed eight people before taking his own life. The tragic events at Prague University now stand as a somber chapter in the nation’s history.