Convoy of hearses leaves Prague university as Czech Republic reels from its worst-ever mass shooting

The Czech Republic woke up Friday to images of hearses leaving the grounds of a prestigious university in the capital, Prague, as the country reeled from its worst mass shooting ever.

On Thursday afternoon, a gunman opened fire at Charles University, killing 14 people and wounding 25 others, authorities said.

Police say the shooter, who had multiple firearms and a large amount of ammunition on him, had no criminal record and was a student at the university. Authorities have not released the name of the attacker, who took his own life.

Minister of the Interior Vít Rakušan has said that officials are looking into a possible motive for the attack, but there was no indication that it had any connection with international terrorism.

Several killed, injured in Prague university shooting
People are wrapped in thermal blankets after the shooting at Charles University on Thursday.Anadolu via Getty Images

The name of the attacker’s first victim was identified as Lenka Hlávková, the head of the institute of musicology at the university, according to a statement the institute posted Friday on Facebook.

Vojtěch Motyka, deputy director of the Criminal Police and Investigation Service, said during a news conference Friday that all victims had been identified.

Bodycam of the incident was released by Czech national police later on Friday, showing officers searching through the building with guns drawn, appearing to go through classrooms. At one point, they appear to be on the roof of a building, with a blurred-out body lying on the floor.

U.S. graduate student Jakob Weizman told NBC News that he heard gunshots and screams as he was taking an exam. He and his professor locked the door and barricaded themselves in the room.  

“Just about five minutes after locking the door, we heard someone, we saw someone try to open the door very violently,” Weizman said. “I think the shooter was trying to go into each classroom and try to murder people.”

He said eventually police evacuated them, but as he made his way out, he said he could see that the floor was covered in blood.

“It was just very traumatic and stressful. And everyone was crying,” Weizman said.

The incident, which shook a nation where mass shootings are rare, took place a few minutes’ walk from the picturesque Old Town Square, a major tourist attraction where a popular Christmas market draws thousands of visitors every year.

“I would like to express my sincere condolences to all relatives of the victims, to all who were at this tragic incident, the most tragic in the history of the Czech Republic,” President Petr Pavel said in the shooting’s aftermath.

Prage shooting hearses leave university
A hearse leaves the Charles University complex on Friday morning.Magdalena Sodomkova

The historical district of Prague was sealed off during the shooting, and video showed police evacuating students and staff in single-file from the university building.

In a video circulating online and verified by NBC News, several people can be seen leaping from a ledge of a building near the roof at the university amid the sound of gunfire and wailing police sirens.

Czech national police said Friday they are establishing a presence and adopting “preventative” measures across the country, especially around schools, although they said they had no information about any “specific threat.”

A lone gunman opened fire at a university on Thursday, killing more than a dozen people and injuring scores of people.
Mourners lay candles outside the headquarters of Charles University on Friday.Denes Erdos / AP

In a post on X, Rakušan, the interior minister, warned media and the public against spreading the shooter’s story in order to prevent copy-cat attacks.

Saturday has been declared a national day of mourning, as people have been bringing flowers and candles to a makeshift memorial for the victims.

“The level of violence that occurred today at Charles University is absolutely new and completely shocking for our academic community and for the Czech Republic,” the university said in another online statement late Thursday, as it also said all classes and events would be canceled Friday.

President Joe Biden expressed his condolences late Thursday, saying on X that his heart was with those who lost their lives in what he called a “senseless shooting.” He said the U.S. stands ready to offer additional support if needed.


Leave a Comment