Prague Searches for Motive in Its Worst Mass Shooting Since World War II Era

Investigators on Friday were working to establish a motive for a deadly gun rampage in the center of Prague a day earlier, the Czech Republic’s worst mass shooting since the immediate aftermath of World War II.

The gunfire that erupted on Thursday at Charles University turned the historic center of one of Europe’s most serene cities into a scene of carnage, its festive Christmas mood marred by screams and the din of sirens. Tourists ran for safety while some students barricaded themselves inside classrooms. Others climbed out of windows, hiding on the ledge of a building.

The gunman killed 14 people and wounded 25 others, according to a revised official death toll released on Friday. The gunman, a 24-year-old student, fatally shot himself after the police surrounded him on the rooftop of the building, the authorities told a news conference on Friday.

The Czech Republic canceled soccer and hockey matches — usually immovable features of the pre-Christmas calendar — and declared Saturday a day of national mourning.

The university’s faculty of arts, the building where the shooting occurred, remained sealed off on Friday morning, but traffic had resumed around nearby Jan Palach Square. An overnight thunderstorm followed by morning rain added to the capital’s somber mood.

After an emergency government meeting late Thursday, the Czech president, Petr Pavel, said he was gripped by “helpless anger at the totally unnecessary loss of life.” He appealed for national unity and called for vigilance against the spread of misinformation, long a serious problem in the Central European country.

The authorities identified the gunman as David K. and ruled out any connection to international or domestic terrorism, telling a news conference on Thursday that he appeared to have acted alone. The police said that they were investigating whether the gunman was linked to a series of expletive-laden messages vowing mass murder that were posted in Russian on the Telegram messaging platform under the name David Kozak.

“I hate the world and want to leave as much pain as possible,” read a message posted three days before Thursday’s massacre. “I want to do a school shooting and possibly suicide.”

The messages, viewed by The New York Times, were all written in Russian, apparently by a native speaker well versed in vulgar slang. If the gunman and the Telegram writer were the same person, it was not clear how a Czech citizen raised in a small village in Central Bohemia would have acquired such mastery of the language.

The Czech Republic has been infested with angry trolls sowing division, a phenomenon that some experts have linked to online mischief-making by Russia. Relations between Prague and Moscow have soured sharply since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the election in January of Mr. Pavel, a former general who, unlike his Kremlin-friendly predecessor, Milos Zeman, is a robust supporter of Ukraine and NATO.

On Friday, the commander of the Czech military’s Cyber and Information Forces Group, Ivo Zelinka, warned the public against sharing unverified information about the gunman online.

The Czech Republic, unlike most European countries, has a relatively permissive approach to gun ownership. Licensing rules are strict, but the right to protect oneself and others using arms is enshrined in the country’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, the closest European equivalent to the Second Amendment in the United States.

Although there were a few calls on social media for the tightening of guns laws in response to Thursday’s rampage, they were quickly rejected as an attempt to introduce politics into the nation’s grief and denounced as disrespectful to the dead.

That stood in sharp contrast to Serbia, where back-to-back mass-shootings in May killed 17 people and wounded more than 20. Serbia also has stringent gun ownership rules, but in the aftermath of the massacres has been convulsed by public debate about whether gun ownership should be restricted further.