Miami: Two people were killed and 11 others wounded Sunday when a video game tournament competitor went on a shooting rampage before turning the gun on himself in the northern Florida city of Jacksonville, local police said.
Sheriff Mike Williams named the suspect of the shooting at a Madden 19 American football eSports tournament as 24-year-old David Katz from Baltimore, Maryland.
“There were three deceased individuals at the scene, one of those being the suspect, who took his own life,” Williams told reporters.
He said local fire and rescue transported nine victims — seven of whom had gunshot wounds — to local hospitals, while another two people who were shot took their own transportation to hospital.
Williams said Katz was a competitor in the eSports tournament and used “at least one handgun” to carry out the shooting.
Madden is a hugely popular multi-player video game based on the National Football League, which in a statement said it was “shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific tragedy.”
The tournament at The Landing entertainment and shopping complex — a regional qualifier for finals in Las Vegas with a $25,000 prize — took place at the GLHF Game Bar.
Sheriff Williams said the shooting occurred inside the Chicago Pizza restaurant in the complex around 1.30pm (9.30pm UAE).
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office: "We are finding many people hiding in locked areas at The Landing. We ask you to stay calm, stay where you are hiding. SWAT is doing a methodical search inside The Landing. We will get to you. Please don’t come running out." pic.twitter.com/cdLx0Hm2Q5— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 26, 2018
Earlier on Twitter, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had urged people hiding in locked areas of The Landing to stay in place and call 911 to make their location known.
‘Traumatized and devastated’
In disturbing footage apparently captured as part of a livestream on video gaming website Twitch, several gunshots could be heard in the background, before the stream disconnected.
Twitch removed the video, but it remained available on social media. Police said they were in possession of footage capturing the incident.
Mass shooting at the Jacksonville Landing. Stay far away from the area. The area is not safe at this time. STAY AWAY #TheLandingMassShooting— Jax Sheriff's Office (@JSOPIO) August 26, 2018
“This is a horrible situation, and our deepest sympathies go out to all involved,” Madden’s creator, EA Sports, said in a statement.
CompLexity Gaming, one of the gaming teams, said its player Drini Gjoka was grazed on the hand.
“We’re obviously shocked and saddened by this afternoon’s events. Our player, Drini, was hit in the thumb but is going to be fine. He managed to escape and run down the street to a nearby gym,” director Jason Lake said.
Gjoka tweeted: “I will never take anything for granted ever again. Life can be cut short in a second.”
Another player, “DubDotDUBBY,” said a bullet had grazed his head.
“I feel fine, just a scratch on my head. Traumatized and devastated,” he tweeted.
Germany-based SK Gaming also confirmed their player known by the handle “JoelCP_” was safe.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the people at the Madden Tournament in Jacksonville. It’s sick to know that someone that evil would shootup a video-game tournament. Don’t believe me about the shooting? Here is proof. pic.twitter.com/C652zIW8q1— wyatthudson (@SCSTWyatt) August 26, 2018
“Our thoughts are with everyone that had to be part of such a horrendous event,” it said.
The professional gamer known as “oLARRY2K,” of Bucks Gaming, was said to have been shot in the chest, according to several social media users, including one describing herself as his mother.
‘We cannot accept this’
Survivors of February’s high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, expressed sorrow at news of another mass shooting in the state.
“Once again, my heart hurts and all of me is so angry. We cannot accept this as our reality,” said Delaney Tarr, one of the organizers of the student-led March for Our Lives movement.
Florida has suffered multiple shootings in recent years: 49 were killed in a June 2016 attack on a gay nightclub, while 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio said that the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were investigating Sunday’s shooting.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said he had offered state support in the aftermath, and that President Donald Trump had offered “any federal resources needed.”
Who was the Jacksonville shooter?
The gunman who opened fire at a busy Jacksonville, Florida, pizzeria during a video game competition - killing two gamers and wounding up to nine others before killing himself - has been identified as a player who had been defeated earlier in the tournament.
The suspect, 24-year-old David Katz of Baltimore, sometimes played under the name "Bread" or "RavensChamp" while competing in the national circuit of professional gamers who play Madden NFL 19, a popular football game.
Officials said Katz opened fire at the Chicago Pizza in the Jacksonville Landing shopping plaza at around 1.30pm on Sunday during a regional qualifying round for the Madden NFL Championship series, a national tournament. The shooter "targeted a few people" before killing himself, according to Stephen "Steveyj" Javaruski, one of the competitors, who took shelter in a bathroom.
The two slain gamers have been identified as Elijah Clayton and Taylor Robertson - better known to their competitors and fans in the gaming world by the handles they adopted for the screen. "RIP to Trueboy and Spotme," Javaruski tweeted. "This is the worst day of my life."
Sunday's shooting was the latest in a tragic sequence for Florida, which was home to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016 and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in February. Florida Governor Rick Scott, whose office said he was headed to Jacksonville to meet with law enforcement officials about the shooting, tweeted that President Donald Trump had "offered any federal resources needed to respond".
Each of the Florida tragedies invaded a corner of American culture that was supposed to be safe from mass violence. This time the victims are gamers, and the city is Jacksonville.
"Jacksonville is mourning," Mayor Lenny Curry said. "We have faced an occurrence that is all too common."
Such tournaments are common in the increasingly lucrative world of professional gaming. Talented gamers and personalities who take up popular titles such as "Madden" and "Overwatch" can harness social media to rack up fans and endorsement deals while earning advertising revenue from streaming video services.
The online audiences can be massive. And just like in the living room - where emotions can run so high that players use the term "rage quitting" for sore losers who won't play to the end - professional matches can be tense. The stakes can be thousands of dollars, larger audiences and sometimes just honor. But the violence stays onscreen. At least until Sunday.
The start of the shooting was captured on the livestreaming network Twitch, which broadcast footage of the restaurant and the game. A red laser dot can be seen on Clayton's sweater before the stream's video feed switched to a kickoff return. Then 11 gunshots can be heard as the video feed was quickly replaced by the message "controller disconnected."
Clayton was on the 2012 football team at Chaminade High School in Los Angeles' West Hills section and played football at nearby Calabasas High School in 2013.
Twelve victims had gunshot wounds, and two others suffered injuries while escaping, officials said. All the hospitalised victims as of Sunday evening were in stable condition except for one, who was in serious condition. The gaming community reacted in shock, and some industry figures tweeted that security was often lax for such tournaments across the country.
I've been saying events NEED better security," tweeted Seth Abner, a popular Call of Duty player. "Such a [expletive] shame that now event coordinators will respond after a tragedy happens. Thoughts are with everyone at the Madden tournament and their families."
This weekend's tournament was sanctioned by EA Sports, which owns the Madden franchise. "We are working with authorities to gather facts at this stage," EA Sports tweeted. "This is a horrible situation, and our deepest sympathies go out to all involved." The two-day competition began Saturday morning. The opening round featured round-robin matchups for as many as 256 players, though it's not clear how many attended.
The first- and second-place finishers were to advance to the next round in Las Vegas and each receive $250 (Dh918), plus travel and lodging. The third- and fourth-place finishers were to receive $1,000 each but do not advance.
The operators of the pizzeria, which was hosting the event, couldn't be reached for comment after the shooting.
The attack could have an impact in the current race for the US Senate seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson, who is being challenged by Scott, a Republican. After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, Scott broke with the National Rifle Association to sign into law several measures aimed at preventing shootings.
Those measures include raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21; increasing funding for school police officers and mental health services; allowing teachers and staff to carry guns; broadening the power of law enforcement to seize firearms; and banning bump stocks, which essentially convert semiautomatic weapons to automatic ones.
Nelson has called for more gun control. "Have spoken to FBI," he tweeted on Sunday. "Making sure that all federal resources will be available to assist victims and their families, and to help law enforcement do their jobs."
The student gun-control activists of Stoneman Douglas quickly leaped into the fray after news of the shooting. "Remember in November," activist David Hogg tweeted. "We need everyone to put 100 per cent of their energy into: volunteering on congressional campaigns; registering new voters; voting on November 6th."
The attack came two days after one student was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting at a Jacksonville high school football game that drew a crowd of 4,000. Investigators said the two male victims - including the student who was killed - had gang ties and were targeted, while the female victim was caught in the crossfire. - Los Angeles Times