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Shooting at 'Madden' Event Claims Lives

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Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

A 24-year-old Maryland man opened fire Sunday in the middle of a video game tournament at Jacksonville's downtown waterfront mall, killing two people, injuring 11 more, then killing himself, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said.

The shooting was connected to a "Madden NFL 19" video game tournament at Chicago Pizza in the Jacksonville Landing. David Katz, from Baltimore, was the lone suspect, who some witnesses said began shooting around 1:34 p.m., after losing in the tournament. Williams, who would not confirm the motive behind the shooting, said Katz used "at least one handgun" on the victims and himself.

The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives visited Katz's Baltimore address and impounded his car.

"We have faced an occurrence that is all too common," Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said. "At terrible times, we see the best in people, and today is no different."

The Miami Herald reported Sunday evening that the other two people fatally shot were believed to be Taylor Robertson, 27, of Ballard, W.Va., and Eli Clayton, 22, of Woodland Hills, Calif., according to friends and family.

According to a Facebook post, one of the 11 people injured was identified as Dalton Hunt, a science teacher at Treasure Coast High School in Port St. Lucie. The school also sent out an update about Hunt to faculty.

Not all of the injured were shot -- two people were hurt in the rush to escape the shooting.

The tournament -- which attracted players from across the country to Jacksonville to compete for a spot in a 16-player competition in Las Vegas -- was shown on a video game live-stream service called Twitch, which captured what sounded like gunshots and screams in the background of gameplay. Those images and sounds captivated local and national media, and became a source of information for friends and family of the victims before police confirmed any details. Williams said investigators had seen the Twitch video.

At one point in the video, someone can be heard saying, "What did he shoot me with?"

According to the Associated Press, a red dot that appears to be from a laser pointer is visible on the chest of a player seconds before shots rang out.

The tournament included professional players, some of whom described the frightening scene and their injuries on Twitter. Drini Gjoka, one such player, said a bullet struck him in the thumb.

"The tourney just got shot up. (I'm leaving) and never coming back," he wrote.

"Worst day of my life," he wrote about 20 minutes later.

Jason Lake, founder and CEO of compLexity Gaming, a professional gaming company whom Gjoka plays for, said he was "cooperating with the authorities and we will be flying him out of Jacksonville as soon as we are given the green light from the officials on the ground."

The shooting thrust Jacksonville into the troubled club of cities to experience a mass shooting during an event that was supposed to be about entertainment.

Officials with UF Health Jacksonville, the top trauma hospital in the area, said they've had six victims ranging in age from 20-35, with one victim in serious condition. Some were hit in the torso, others hit in the ankle or wrist. Other hospitals also have patients.

"I heard a lot of gunshots back to back to back," said Rome Williams, who was in the Landing when the shooting started.

Gov. Rick Scott spoke with President Donald Trump about the incident and traveled from Naples to Jacksonville on Sunday evening.

The shooting prompted an outpouring of concern and comment from public officials and candidates in Florida and beyond.

"Horrifying news from #Jacksonville this afternoon," Sen. Marco Rubio wrote on Twitter.

It was also a major disruption in what had already been a violent weekend in Jacksonville. A triple shooting Friday night at the Lee vs. Raines high school football game -- a well-known rivalry -- killed a 19-year-old former Raines student and injured two others who currently attend Raines and Lee.

The copper-topped Jacksonville Landing -- a sibling to Baltimore's Inner Harbor -- has long served as the iconic backdrop for downtown, even as visitors and its fortunes have lagged in recent years.

About three blocks were cordoned off around the Landing. A police helicopter hovered in the air, and Coast Guard boats patrolled the St. Johns River near the Landing. A SWAT unit at one point appeared to be operating a bomb robot on the sidewalk outside a nearby parking garage, though it was not clear why.

Several members of Jacksonville Fire and Rescue were conducting a training exercise across the street from the Landing when they saw people running out of the building, including one who had been shot. Four responders rushed in without protective gear. Officials added that police responded within two minutes of the first 911 call.

Michael Barlow was working out on the riverwalk outside the Landing when he heard the approach of sirens.

"We saw a bunch of people getting taken out on stretchers," Barlow said. "I saw four people on stretchers and then two other guys getting carried. They weren't on stretchers, they were just being carried."

The waterfront mall still houses a handful of restaurants, including a Hooters Restaurant and Chicago Pizza, and holds concerts and occasionally political rallies on the outdoor pavilion that fronts the St. Johns River.

City officials and boosters have pined for years to replace or renovate the Landing, but those efforts have so far proven fruitless and left City Hall and the building's owners locked in a contentious court battle.

Staff writer Jane Musgrave and reports from The Miami Herald and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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August 27, 2018
 
 
 

 

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