It’s the type of tragedy that has sadly become less and less shocking in America – in this case, a lone gunman opened fire at a Madden NFL 19 video game tournament in Jacksonville, FL, on Sunday, August 26, killing multiple people and leaving even more injured.
Initially, the USA TODAY reported:
“The sheriff’s office said there were “multiple fatalities” and that many other victims were transported to hospitals. One suspect was dead at the scene, and it was unknown whether there was a second shooter, the sheriff’s office said. A search was underway.”
A lot more is known now about what happened while new information is still coming in.
The senseless and heartbreaking incident took the innocent lives of a young husband and father and another young professional gamer and has left the gaming community in a state of disbelief. The NFL has reacted, and the rest of the world is wondering how the United States can continue to allow countless of these mass shootings to continue to happen without any real change in the way gun enthusiasts can buy and sell guns in America.
The ‘who’ and ‘what’ of this story are now known, but the ‘why’ might never be since the shooter took his own life at the scene.
This article answers some general questions about this horrific shooting and describes how the gaming community, the NFL and our American leaders have reacted.
Where did this shooting take place?
The shooting took place in Jacksonville, Florida at a popular collection of restaurants and shops in the heart of the city’s downtown area known as ‘The Jacksonville Landing,’ which also hosts concerts and other entertainment. It was the site of a Trump rally in 2015, early in his campaign for the White House.
More specifically, it happened at a bar called GLHF Game Bar known for its video gaming set-up and associated events. The GLHF Game Bar is located in the back of the Chicago Pizza and Sports Grille. GLHF stands for ‘Good Luck, Have Fun’.
The shooting spree occurred during a “Madden NFL 19” livestream two-day event taking place in the GLHF Game Bar. For those who aren’t into the video gaming world, the Madden NFL 19 game is a hugely popular multi-player video game based on the National Football League.
The Madden NFL 19 event at the Jacksonville Landing was supposed to have about 150 people involved and viewers of this tournament could watch the games online and see the players. The winner would win a $25,000 prize and head to Vegas to play in the final round.
Witnesses described a flurry of gunshots in the gaming room followed by a stampede as people rushed to escape, saying people trampled others in the panic to escape. Everyone ran to a nearby restaurant, where workers were waving people inside, and hid in a bathroom until police arrived.
How far was this from the Parkland, FL shooting?
This is the second mass-shooting event in Florida in six months, following the attack at Parkland High School located in Parkland, Florida. In February, a gunman killed 17 people in a rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day.
The city of Jacksonville is about 300 miles north of Parkland.
Survivors of that 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.
Survivors of February’s high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, expressed sorrow at news of another mass shooting in the state.
Florida has suffered multiple shootings in recent years. In additions to the Parkland and Jacksonville attacks, 49 were killed in the June 2016 attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando called Pulse.
Who was shot and killed?
There were three fatalities in the Jacksonville shooting.
The first of two innocent victims was Taylor Robertson, 27, of Ballard, West Virginia. In addition to being a professional gamer, Robertson, known in the gaming world as ‘Spotmeplzz,’ was a husband and a father.
The second victim’s name was Eli Clayton, 22, of Woodland Hills, California. Clayton’s gaming handle was True_818.
Both Robertson and Clayton were competitive Madden players, and Robertson reportedly had won the Madden Classic Tournament in 2017.
Also killed was the gunman, who shot himself afterwards. (See Below)
How many others were injured?
Sheriff Mike Williams has said that in addition to the three fatalities, there were 11 others injured in the shooting. Nine of them were taken to hospitals, seven with gunshot wounds. Two others sought hospital care on their own.
Memorial Hospital, where some of the victims were taken, has released the names of four victims treated:
- George Amadeo II, 17, is in good condition;
- David Echevarria, 28, was treated for minor injuries and released;
- Alexander Madunic, 27, is in good condition after a gunshot wound to the foot;
- Christopher McFarland, 31, is in good condition after a bullet graze to the head.
A professional gaming team called ‘Complexity Gaming’ had a player participating in the tournament who was injured. Drini Gjoka was apparently grazed in the hand.
Gjoka tweeted that he was hit in the thumb when the tournament “got shot up.”
He called it the “worst day of my life. I will never take anything for granted ever again. Life can be cut short in a second.”
Six of the victims were taken to UF Health, and doctors have said four of them have been released.
One patient, a professional gamer who was shot in the chest, the side and his right hand, is undergoing surgery to repair the damage. His mother said he jumped a fence to escape and was able to hide inside Hooters until help arrived. The mother also told reporters that he is devastated that he might lose his hand.
“[Professional gaming] is his life and if he couldn’t do this his life would be changed forever,” she said.
According to CBS, all of the GLHF Game Bar’s staff members were able to escape from the scene unhurt.
Who did the shooting?
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says that the lone shooter was said to be David Katz, 24, of Baltimore. He took his own life at the scene.
The suspect, Katz, whose gamer tag online was often “Bread” or “Sliced Bread,” was competing in the tournament and in 2017 won a similar tournament in Buffalo.
Katz allegedly started shooting at the others in the gaming tournament sometime after he lost a match.
One participant, Dennis Alston, known as ‘Evil Ken’ in the Madden world, said he had beaten Katz in one of the tournaments rounds and tried to shake his hand afterwards, but Katz just stared at him blankly instead. He also says Katz was acting weird and wearing the same clothes as the day before.
“He had shades on. He didn’t speak to anybody. After we played, I went to shake his hand and tell him good game and he just looked at me and didn’t say anything,” Alston said.
Katz later left the game room and came back with a gun.
The sheriff said so far there is no indication that Katz planned this attack prior to committing the shooting.
As is often the case with these types of shooters, the suspect’s neighbors and others described Katz as someone who kept to himself. Final confirmation of the suspect’s identity was pending as the FBI in Baltimore aid in the investigation, this according to Sheriff Williams.
A reporter for WBAL-TV in Baltimore said that according to Maryland court records, Katz’s parents were divorced in 2007 and that at the time, his father worked for NASA and his mother for the FDA.
A crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun tweeted that court records relating to the divorce of Katz’s parents say that he had “significant medical problems and healthcare needs.”
According to Business Insider, announcers at a 2017 tournament said that Katz was someone who did not show “much emotion” while playing his games.
“David Katz keeps to himself. He’s a man of business,” the announcer said. “He’s not here to make friends.”
“You can’t even get him to open up about anything, it’s like pulling teeth,” he added.
What type of gun was used?
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s office said that Katz had two guns, but he only used one of them to commit the mass shooting.
Katz legally purchased both firearms recently in Maryland from a licensed dealer, according to the sheriff.
The sheriff said one of the guns was a .45 caliber and the other gun was a 9-millimeter and one of the guns had an aftermarket laser attachment. In the livestream video (see below), a red dot that looks like a laser pointer is visible on the chest of a player seconds before the first of about a dozen gunshots rings out.
The police have taken items from Katz’s hotel room and car as part of the investigation.
Why did the gunman shoot those people?
Police have said that Katz’s motive in the shooting remains under investigation.
One gamer who was shot in the foot, Alexander Madunic, said the shooter lost a game in the Madden tournament earlier in the day and was angry.
"He was kinda upset about that, so I'm guessing that had something else to do with it, too," Madunic said.
But others who were there disagree.
“I was actually one of the people who beat him,” one of gamers at the tournament told Action News Jax. “There was another guy… who beat him. We’re both still here. I felt that he was targeting, but I don’t think it was the people who beat him.”
Is it true there’s a video of the shooting?
Yes, a live feed from the tournament was underway when the shooting took place, but the sound of several gunshots interrupted the audio feed.
The chilling video begins with only the game on the screen, but eventually two of the gamers appear in a smaller screen in lower-right corner. They appear to be enjoying the play when gunshots begin firing.
Terrified screams are heard, and at one point one of the victims is heard saying, “Oh f**k, what’d he shoot me with?”
Variety has the video available, but as they say right there on the screen: WARNING: This video contains audio and language some may find distressing.
Are there eyewitness accounts of the shooting?
The most chilling account comes from Braheem Johnson of Jacksonville, who was working at the Chicago Pizzeria and Sports Grille (the bar / restaurant in front of the gaming bar) at the time of the shooting. Johnson caught a glimpse of the shooter, whom he described as a young male of average build, firing into the crowd with a large-caliber handgun sporting a laser sight attachment.
"I just heard shots and I looked at the window and I see him," Johnson said. "Dude came in there, basically like, to kill, basically. He was just in his rampage mode."
Johnson said he barricaded himself and some customers in the kitchen and grabbed two knives, adding, "If you come into this kitchen, you're bound to get stabbed."
How has the gaming community reacted?
These professional gamers knew each other well and developed friendships as a result of these many yearly tournaments. Many of them Tweeted their shock and condolences following the tragedy.
RIP @True__818 Elijah Clayton. One of my best friends in life. I talked to u almost everyday for the last 5 years. U were one of the most kind and genuine people I’ve ever met. I love u like a brother. I’m gonna miss hearing you laugh everyday and seeing your genuine smile. pic.twitter.com/Balk88T1ES— Kiv (@young_kiv) 26. august 2018
Trueboy was so young...SpotMe had a wife and kids.. We spent years as a community building relationships on kindness and competitiveness. I'm sick right now...— Josh (@JoshTolliver) 26. august 2018
To anyone ive ever blasted or talked smack to on stream I sincerely apologize. I was always talking to the gamertag in the corner of my screen and never the human being on the other end of the sticks. Things gunna be different going forward. I respect everyone out here doing this— x D3liveranc3 x (@mpinter9) 26. august 2018
We are deeply saddened to hear about a shooting that occurred at a Madden 19 tournament in Jacksonville, Florida this afternoon and we wanted to extend our deepest condolences to the victims, their families, and all those affected by this tragedy. pic.twitter.com/GYWCjE3yzG— lolesports (@lolesports) 26. august 2018
How has EA Sports reacted?
Initially, EA Sports, the makers of Madden NFL 19, said in a statement that it was "aware of an incident at a sanctioned Madden Championship Series competition in Jacksonville. We are working with authorities to gather facts at this stage."
Then it put out a statement that said it was “shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific tragedy.”
And now, anyone who plays the Madden NFL 19 video game sees the following screen when logging on:
“The tragic situation that occurred Sunday in Jacksonville was a senseless act of violence that we strongly condemn. Our most heartfelt sympathies go out to the families of the victims whose lives were taken and those who were injured.
“All of us on the Madden team are devastated by this horrific event, and we also join the community in thanking the first responders who were quickly on the scene.
“Our focus right now is on those affected, and supporting law enforcement as they continue their investigation into this crime.
Out of respect for Sunday’s tragic event, there will be no Madden Ultimate Team content update for today. We will keep our players informed on future updates here and on our social channels.”
The most recent announcement while playing Madden NFL 19 is this:
“The authorities have confirmed that we lost two respected members of our community in Sunday's event, Elijah "TrueBoy" Clayton and Taylor "SpotMePlzzz" Robertson.
Their deaths are an inconceivable tragedy, and we offer our deepest sympathies to their families, to those injured, and everyone affected by this. Many of us at EA new Elijah and Taylor well, and their positive, competitive spirit and respect for other players were evident to everyone.
They earned the admiration of all who watch them compete, and we will miss them greatly. We are committed to supporting their family members to this difficult time.
There will be no Madden ultimate team content update again today. We intend to resume our updates to you on Wednesday, August 29. We'll continue to inform you on future updates here and on our social channels.”
How has the NFL reacted?
The NFL released the following statement regarding the incident:
"We are shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific tragedy today in Jacksonville. Our hearts go out to all those affected. We are grateful for the first responders immediately at the scene. We support our partners at EA Sports and will continue to monitor developments with local law enforcement."
Though this EA/NFL sanctioned regional qualifying tournament was in no way affiliated with the Jacksonville Jaguars organization, the franchise’s owner Shad Kahan released this heartfelt statement:
"It's impossible to comprehend today's news. I'm heartbroken for the families and friends of the victims and can only express my deepest condolences as we try to understand why and how this can happen, not only here, but anywhere.
"What I can say is I know today what lifelong Jacksonville residents have known forever: we are resilient, compassionate and remarkably supportive of our neighbors and friends, particularly in the most trying occasions.
"This tragedy will ask the best of all of us, but I know we will respond."
The Washington Redskins also released a statement on the tragedy:
"Our hearts go out to those affected by today's tragedy in Jacksonville. Our thoughts and condolences are with the victims and their families."
Many NFL players tweeted about the shooting immediately, pointing out how tragic and ridiculous it is that it’s not even safe playing in a Madden tournament anymore.