A disgruntled gamer shot up a Madden NFL tournament on Sunday, killing two people and injuring 11 before taking his own life—the chilling “pop, pop” of gunshots and ensuing chaos captured live on a video stream.
Police in Jacksonville, Florida, identified the shooter as David Katz, 24, of Baltimore, a competitive gamer who was attending the regional qualifier when he is said to have opened fire with a handgun.
Katz reportedly used the screen name Bread. A video posted by local TV station from an earlier tournament featured announcers discussing his emotionless playing style.
“You are not going to see much emotion from our guy Bread,” one of the announcers said. “He keeps to himself. He’s a man of business.”
“He’s not here to make friends,” the announcer added.
Police did not specify a motive. The Los Angeles Times reported Katz had lost the tournament before he began his rampage. Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said investigators determined Katz was the only shooter.
The incident unfolded around 1:30 p.m. inside a restaurant filled with gamers hoping to do well enough in a regional qualifier to play in the national championship in Las Vegas later this year.
A livestream captured the moment a grim reality overtook the event. Most of the screen was taken up by the virtual players, with two top competitors shown in an inset. What appears to be a red dot flickers over the shirt of one of the young men, then the first shot rings out.
A dozen would be fired over roughly 20 seconds, and frantic audio of the aftermath was live for nearly two minutes.
“Oh my God!” one person could be heard saying.
“Where’d he go?” a voice asked.
Drini Gjoka, a top player, was shot in the thumb. His Twitter posts showed how abruptly the tournament went from the scene of fun gaming to one of bloodshed.
“Won my first single elim game 16-9. Off to Round of 32,” he wrote.
Minutes later, he tweeted: “The tourney just got shot up. Im leavinng [sic] and never coming back.”
“I will never take anything for granted ever again. Life can be cut short in a second,” he wrote later.
The mother of Michael Skimbo, another gamer at the tournament, said she was playing the livestream while making lunch and was sent into a panic by the gunshots.
“We were waiting for him to play. I heard the shots on my laptop and I went in there to see what was going on,” Valerie Skimbo said in an interview with The Daily Beast.
“I could hear in the background... ‘Oh my god! Oh my god!’ then the screen went blank, and I started praying, ‘Let Michael be OK.’
“I got on my phone and I texted him. He usually doesn’t reply to me,” she added. “I said, ‘Let me know right now if you’re OK.’ He called. He said, ‘Mom, I’m OK, I love you, I gotta go,’ and then he hung up.”
The tournament took place inside Chicago Pizza, a restaurant with a video game bar at Jacksonville Landing, a popular tourist spot downtown that was packed with people.
In a series of tweets, police confirmed the shooting, then urged the public to stay away.
“We can’t stress enough to stay away. Many blocks away,” one police post said.
SWAT teams working to clear the area were “finding many people hiding in locked areas at The Landing,” police said.
“We ask you to stay calm, stay where you are hiding,” they tweeted. “SWAT is doing a methodical search inside The Landing. We will get to you. Please don’t come running out.”
The two gamers who were killed Sunday were named as Eli Clayton, who played under the name “Trueboy,” and Taylor Robertson, who used the name ”SpotMePlzzz.”
Four of the 11 victims being treated in hospital were named as George Amadeo II, 17, David Echevarria, 28, Alexander Madunic, 27, and Christopher McFarland, 31. All are said to be in a good condition and recovering from minor injuries.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott visited victims at the hospital. Sujeil Lopez tweeted a photo of her son with the governor and said he was shot three times—and another picture of his bloodied gear.
Madden NFL is one of the most popular video games of all time. The tournament in Jacksonville was the Southeast qualifier, offering $5,000 in prize money. First- and second-place finishers were to qualify for the Madden 19 Live Finals in Las Vegas in October, which offers $165,000 in prize money and pays for travel and lodging.
EA Sports, the franchise's parent company, called the shooting a “horrible situation” and a “senseless act of violence that we strongly condemn.”
A Maryland high-school student began organizing a Tuesday sit-in at the offices of U.S. senators who have accepted money from the National Rifle Association.
WARNING: DISTURBING AUDIO