Police say the killer murdered his father in a nearby town before heading into the Czech capital and going on a shooting spree at the historic site, randomly firing at people from a balcony and then taking his own life. It is the worst mass shooting in the Czech Republic’s history.
He is believed to have written chiling social media posts in the run up to the massacre, keeping a diary in Russian on messaging app Telegram, writing: “I want to do a school shooting and possibly suicide.” He has been said to have been inspired by a shooting conducted by Alina Afanaskina, a 14-year-old who killed one at a school in Russia on Dec. 7 this year.
He went on a shooting rampage at the university at around 3 p.m. local time on Thursday, which is located in Jan Palach Square, a bustling tourist epicenter in the city of just over 1.3 million. It has also been reported that the 24-year-old killed his father before he ventured into the city to commit the heinous act. His father’s body was discovered by police at around 12:45 p.m. local time.
The police revealed that he had a lecture scheduled at 2 p.m. local time and that they had received a tip about a shooting beforehand, allowing them to evacuate the building. He then targeted a different one, it was reported.
His father was killed in Hostoun just northwest of Prague. Kozak, from Kladensko, has not been officially identified by the authorities, but his name has been widely circulated on social media and by official media outlets in the Czech Republic, including Novinky. Novinky also reported that he may have killed an infant when he killed his father, the outlet said Police President Martin Vondrášek told reporters during a press conference.
As details began to pour in, it was revealed that he reportedly killed a 32-year-old man and his infant daughter in the Klánovice Forest near Klánovický on Dec. 15. It hasn’t been officially confirmed whether or not Kozak was the killer, but he remains a person of interest.
The police are now looking into Kovak’s collection of guns to determine if any were used in the slaughters. Vondrášek stressed that he believes the attacks were random and that there wasn’t a previous connection between the killer and the victims.
Chilling images show a man dressed in black pointing a rifle from the balcony of the university building.
The Czech Republic’s interior ministry said earlier that the suspect was dead, and the authorities are now actively searching the area — including the balconies on the building where some of the victims were seen hanging as they attempted to jump out of windows to escape the violence — for explosives and other dangerous devices. Approximately 30 have been confirmed injured, including nine who are critically wounded. Those numbers were later updated to 24 injured and 11 critically wounded.
It is feared tourists could be among the dead.
None of the victims have yet been identified, and the circumstances surrounding the incident have also not yet been determined or revealed. But the facts are starting to pour in regarding why Kozak decided to open fire on the busy campus in the act of heinous violence that has rocked Europe and the world, an act that ended in him reportedly taking his own life, though that detail has yet to be officially confirmed. Other reports indicate that he threw the gun down and was shot to death unarmed.
The shooting was allegedly centered around the philosophy department’s building, which was evacuated at the time as the square below was locked off and also evacuated. The police allegedly killed Kozak after the event, stating that he had been “eliminated” once they announced that the immediate threat had been neutralized.
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Several university staff members were seen posting on Twitter images of the barricades they had placed in front of their doors as Kozak actively attempted to enter the rooms. They had been told to “stay put” and to barricade themselves inside, turning all the lights off and remaining silent, according to reporting from Reuters.
“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,” read an urgent email seen by Reuters that was sent to faculty and staff in the philosophy department.
The country’s prime minister Petr Fiala reportedly canceled all upcoming engagements after the shooting took place. He took to Twitter, now known as X, and wrote: “I am in contact with the Minister of the Interior and the Czech Police.”
Several witnesses reported hearing gunshots and looking outside the windows of their apartments or dorms to see police swarming the scene as the action unfolded.
Vondrášek said the shooter had been inspired by a previous mass shooting incident that occurred abroad in the past. He had graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and European studies from the university then went on to complete a master’s program in history. He had focused his studies on the history of Poland, it was reported.
It was later reported that the inspiration he drew came from a shooting conducted by Alina Afanaskina, a 14-year-old who killed one at a school in Russia on Dec. 7 this year. A “manifesto” of sorts was reportedly discovered on a Telegram channel he had been using. Telegram is a social media service that has encryption and is used for instant messaging, appearing similar to WhatsApp.
In one of the alleged posts, he wrote: “I want to do a school shooting and possibly suicide. Alina Afanaskina helped me so much.” He then continued: “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.”
A spokesperson for the police said at a press conference, according to LBC: “The police received information at 12:45 pm that a 24-year-old man was supposed to leave the village of Hostouň for Prague, saying that he wanted to take his own life.”
Vondrášek added: “A dead man was found in the village from which he left. He was the attacker’s father.” He added that it appeared to have been “a premeditated attack.” He also revealed that the shooter had talked about killing himself, too, in the diary he kept on Telegram.
But “nothing wrong with his past was found,” the police added, noting that they don’t believe he was radicalized by international terrorism and that he also legally owned several guns.
Petr Nedoma, the director of the Rudolfinum Gallery at a concert hall located directly across the square from where the shooting was centered, told Czech TV that he saw the shooter and watched the chaos unfold. “I saw a young person on the gallery who had some weapon in his hand, like and automatic weapon, and shooting toward the Manes Bridge. Repeatedly, with some interruptions, then I saw as he shot, put hands up and threw the weapon down on the street, it lay there on the pedestrian crossing,” he said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen took to X to share her condolences for the families and victims: “Shocked by the senseless violence of the shooting that claimed several lives today in Prague. I express my deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the Czech people as a whole. We stand and mourn with you.”
Gun attacks are rare in the Czech Republic, with only a few recorded over the past several years. Thursday’s, however, has been described as the worst in the country’s history, at least since it gained independence around 30 years ago. The most recent attack occurred in December 2019 when a 42-year-old man shot and killed six people at a hospital in Ostrava, a city in the eastern part of the country, before he turned the gun on himself and killed himself. In 2015, another man killed eight at a restaurant in Uhersky Brod before he, too, killed himself.
But the Czech Republic has some of the most liberal gun laws in Europe, which essentially means that they are some of the most restrictive as the country strives to limit gun violence.
As the shooting unfolded and the police responded, citizens were warned to stay away from the area and to stay inside, if possible. Many other witness reports described the chaos as people tried to leave the square, watching as people in front of them died on the spot, having been shot through the heart right in front of them as they fled.