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Prague shooting: Who was David Kozak, the 'excellent student' behind 14 people's killing in university?

Czech Police described Kozak as an "excellent student" with no prior criminal record. However, Kozak is allegedly responsible for killing his father before the university murder spree, and the deaths of a father and his newborn child on December 15 in Prague.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Prague Updated on: December 22, 2023 15:08 IST
The shooter was identified as David Kozak, the 24-year-old
Image Source : X The shooter was identified as David Kozak, the 24-year-old history student.

Chaos erupted at Prague University on Thursday when a student went on a killing spree, killing 14 people and injuring 25 people in the Czech Republic's worst mass shooting. Earlier reports said that 15 people were killed and 24 were hurt, but the figures were later changed with the possibility that the death count could rise.

The shooter was identified as the 24-year-old history student David Kozak, who unleashed terror in the philosophy department building of Charles University yesterday. His motives for the shooting remained unclear but the incident has shocked the country and raised concerns about campus safety.

Kozak was himself shot dead during the incident, and Czech Police said that he suffered “devastating injuries” but it wasn’t clear if he killed himself or was shot to death in an exchange of gunfire with officers. Prague Police Chief Martin Vondrasek also said that there was “nothing to suggest that he had an accomplice.”

Who is David Kozak?

Czech Police described Kozak as an "excellent student" with no prior criminal record. However, he is thought to have kept a diary in Russian on the messaging platform Telegram, where he spoke of his plans for a school shooting and suicide. Other media reports suggested that Kozak was indeed an award-winning student at the university.

According to some reports, Kozak was a history student who had excellent results in his studies. He graduated in European history, and continued his master’s studies in which he focused on Polish history. He even received the award of the Polish Institute in Prague for the work “Problems of the Antagonism of the Galician Peasant and Krakow Uprising of 1846”.

However, he was considered an introverted student and suffered from mental problems, with perverted thoughts running through his head. In a chilling post, the 24-year-old student wrote, "I want to do school shooting and possibly suicide" and "I always wanted to kill. I thought I would become a maniac in the future".

He praised "Ilznaz" for his motives, in a possible reference to the 19-year-old Ilznaz Galyaviev, who killed nine people in an attack on his former school in 2021. He also highly approved of 14-year-old Alina Afanaskina, who was responsible for a school shooting in Russia earlier this month and killed a classmate, according to the Telegraph.

The deadly shooting in Prague

Kozak, dressed in black and armed with a rifle, arrived on campus and began randomly shooting at people. However, police said that Kozak killed his father earlier on Thursday in his hometown of Hostoun before going on a murder spree on the university premises and was also planning to kill himself.

Later on Thursday,  Vondrasek said that based on a search of his home, the gunman was also suspected in the killing of another man and his 2-month-old daughter on December 15 in Prague. Hundreds of police searched the area after the perpetrator disappeared, and authorities are currently probing whether the two killing sprees could be linked, Daily Mail reported.

The shooter legally owned several guns — police said he was heavily armed on Thursday and was carrying a lot of ammunition — and that what he did was “well thought out, a horrible act,” Vondrasek said. The building where the shooting took place is in Jan Palach Square, a busy tourist area in Prague’s Old Town. 

Terrified students and tourists were seen fleeing while others crouched beneath a window ledge on the high building as gunshots rang out in Prague. Foreign nationals were among the 14 killed after Kozak opened fire at the university. The shooting started at 3 pm and police said the gunman was 'eliminated' at 4 pm after elite cops were seen storming the building. 

“We mourn the loss of life of members of our university community, express our deepest condolences to all the bereaved and our thoughts are with all those affected by the tragedy,” Charles University said in a statement.

The government declared a day of mourning across the central European country for December 23 to remember the victims, decided at a special cabinet meeting with President Petr Pavel. "I would express my great sadness along with helpless anger at the unnecessary loss of so many young lives," Pavel said.

Gun crime in Czech Republic

The White House condemned the shooting and said the United States was ready to offer assistance. Leaders across Europe including France's Emmanuel Macron offered their support.

Gun crime is relatively rare in the Czech Republic. In December 2019, a 42-year-old gunman killed six people in a hospital waiting room in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava before fleeing and fatally shooting himself, police said. Before that, the nation’s worst mass shooting was in 2015, when a gunman opened fire in the southeastern town of Uhersky Brod, killing eight before fatally shooting himself.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Prague University shooting: 15 killed, including gunman, 25 others injured in Czech Republic

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