Friday, September 21, 2018
Public safety

Sheriff: Jacksonville Landing shooter kills 2, wounds 9, before killing himself at video game tournament

JACKSONVILLE — A gunman opened fire during a video game tournament on Sunday afternoon, killing two and wounding nine people in the Jacksonville Landing complex before killing himself, authorities said.

Two other people were treated for non-gunshot injuries, according to Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, as participants and spectators scrambled to flee the gunfire.

The event was the Madden 19 Southeast Qualifier, a tournament for the popular NFL video game, which took place Saturday and Sunday at GLHF Game Bar. The venue shares a door with a Chicago Pizza, which is where Williams said the man started shooting.

Figures from politics to the NFL weighed in on the tragedy, all expressing condolences and some calling for leaders to take action to prevent more cases of dramatic gun violence.

Read more: Here is how Florida’s politicians are reacting to the Jacksonville mass shooting

One unhurt gamer, Clearwater native Stephen Javaruski, 22, called the scene "the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced."

Williams said the agency "believed" the shooter to be David Katz, 24, of Baltimore, Md.

Katz was in town for the tournament, Williams said, and stayed in Jacksonville on Saturday night. The shooter used a handgun, and authorities are working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI to investigate further, he said.

About 1:34 p.m., someone called 911 reporting gunshots at the Chicago Pizza. Responders first arrived two minutes later, Williams said.

"I heard the first pop and was pretty sure it was a gunshot," said Javaruski, who uses the gamer tag ImSteveyJ. "Then the second shortly after, and I scrambled frantically to the bathroom with like 20 other guys."

Other attendees ran for the exits.

Taylor Poindexter, who came with Marquis Williams from Chicago for the tournament, injured her ankle in the frenzy.

The couple was at the bar to order a pizza when the gunshots started, Poindexter said.

"We were just here playing video games, you know, something that we love to do," she said.

People were trampled as they tried to escape, she said. She called out to Williams for help.

"How long is it going to take for us to get guns off the street?" asked Williams. "How many more friends do we have to lose? When are our politicians going to wake up?"

Briana Gracia, 32, was at home helping her five kids with homework when her phone lit up with texts about the shooting.

Her husband, Brian Gracia , 43, has been a bartender at Chicago Pizza for about 13 years, she said. He was working Sunday and she couldn’t reach him on his cellphone. It took more than two hours to learn he was safe.

"It was surreal, like an out of body experience," she said. "I felt like I was outside of my body, watching myself."

By Sunday evening, she hadn’t yet been reunited with her husband, she said.

What's a Madden tournament? Jacksonville shooting brings attention to the world of eSports

Reports of the shooting quickly reached the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville, the area’s premier trauma center, which is trained to triage by severity like a military unit sorting through wounded troops on a battlefield. Six male shooting victims in their early- to mid-20s were treated there, four of whom were shot in the torso, said Marie Crandall, the attending trauma surgeon. The two others were shot in the extremities. One victim is in serious condition, but all are expected to survive.

Three other shooting victims, now in stable condition, were treated at Memorial Hospital in southeast Jacksonville, hospital spokesman Peter Moberg said. And one woman who was not shot, but was hurt while fleeing was treated for minor injuries at Baptist Medical Center, spokeswoman Cindy Hamilton said.

Jacksonville Landing is a waterfront shopping and dining area at the heart of downtown Jacksonville. The Sheriff’s Office asked people to stay many blocks away as they responded to the violence.

"For all those watching," Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said, "I say this: Pray for Jacksonville as we deal with this senseless tragedy."

"Today, this evening and tonight, Jacksonville is mourning."

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he spoke with Williams, Curry and U.S. President Donald Trump after the shooting and offered state resources.

Candidates to replace him in the upcoming election offered prayers for the victims and their families. Agriculture Commissioner and Republican candidate Adam Putnam said he would cancel a planned campaign event in Jacksonville on Monday. Democrats charged politicians to prevent future outbreaks of gun violence.

News of the shooting spread quickly among the gaming community. The tournament was being streamed on Twitch.tv, an online platform that shows gamers playing live.

Tournaments such as the Sunday event involve professional competitors vying for prize money in games streamed to thousands of online spectators. Prominent esports players carry endorsement deals and legions of fans, much like professional athletes do. The Jacksonville event was a regional qualifier leading to an October final in Las Vegas, with a top prize of $25,000. It was unclear how many players were in the venue when the shooting occurred.

Electronic Arts, which produces the Madden franchise, said the tournament was a sanctioned Madden Championship Series event.

The company, the NFL and the Jacksonville Jaguars owner all put out statements after the shooting expressing sympathy for the victims.

Gun control advocates seized on the moment Sunday to call for action against gun violence.

"My thoughts are with everyone impacted by the shooting today at the Jacksonville Landing — but thoughts are not enough," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Twitter. "As we continue to track developments, it’s clear Congress must stop stalling & act to protect Americans from the daily tragedy of gun violence."

"How many mass shootings in your state will it take for you to do something?" David Hogg, who survived the Parkland shooting in February, tweeted to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch, meanwhile, called for an end to "gun free zones" and said security should be in place to keep people safe.

Just two days earlier, a man died and two teenagers suffered injuries in a shooting at a Jacksonville high school football game.

Read more: 1 dead in shooting after Florida high school football game

Contact Langston Taylor at 727-893-8659 or [email protected] Follow @langstonitaylor.

Mike Van Sickler and Alex Leary contributed to this report. Information from the Washington Post was used in this report.

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