JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Marquis Williams and Taylor Poindexter in the first instance, she thought she heard a balloon popping. When the loud hits kept coming, the Chicago couple and fellow video gamers, attend a weekend tournament recognized them as gunfire and began to scramble for an exit.
As he fled, Williams, 28, said he could see that the back of the shooter to the head of the attacker turned to walk backwards as he fired.
“We didn’t look like a face,” Poindexter, 26, told reporters a few hours after the attack, standing on crutches after spraining her ankle trying to escape. “We saw him with two hands on a gun run just popping rounds.”
The couple said that people trampled others in the panic to escape. She walked to a nearby restaurant, where the workers were waving people inside, and hid in a bathroom until the police arrived.
The deadly violence stunned gamers compete Sunday in Jacksonville during a “Madden NFL 19” video-game tournament. Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said the shooter killed two people and shot nine others before fatally shooting himself.
The competition was held in a gaming bar that shares space with a pizzeria. Viewers could watch the games online and see the players.
Williams said that the authorities believe that the 24-year-old David Katz of Baltimore carried out the attack with at least one gun at the Jacksonville Landing, a collection of restaurants and shops along the St. Johns River. He said the final confirmation of the identity of the defendant was in anticipation of the FBI in Baltimore helped in the investigation.
The sheriff said Katz was attending the tournament in Florida. The “Madden” game’s maker, EA Sports, lists of David Katz as a 2017 championship winner.
The authorities gave a motive for the shooting.
“No one deserves to die on the play of a video game, you know?” said “Madden” competitor Derek Jones, 30, of Santa Fe, New Mexico. “We are only here to try to win some money for our family and that sort of thing.”
Jones said that he was seated in a backyard outside the tennis courts when he heard the gunshots Sunday. He jumped over a fence and ran, leaving behind his backpack and mobile phone.
“You know, I am happy that I have lost today,” Jones said. “Because if I would win, I would be in that game bar the right to play a game and not paying attention. And he would come and I would probably be dead now.”
Jones said that he knew Katz by the gamertags he used online — often “Bread” or “Bread Sliced” — and had played against him online, but had never spoken to him personally.
Nine other people were injured by the gunfire were all in stable condition Sunday evening after being taken to hospitals, Williams said. He added that two others were injured in the rush to flee the gunfire.
Researchers were looking for an online video that appeared to capture the scene just before the shooting started, Williams said. A red dot similar to a laser pointer is visible on the chest of a player seconds before the first of a dozen shots rings out.
Jason Lake, founder and CEO of complexity, a company that owns professional esports teams, said on Twitter that one of his players, 19-year-old Drini Gjoka, was shot in the thumb.
Gjoka tweeted: “The tournament has just shot up. Im leavinng and never come back.” Then: “I am literally so happy. The bullet hit my thumb. Worst day of my life.”
On Sunday evening, the FBI said its agents were looking for a house of the man authorities believed was behind the attack.
Heavily armed agents, some in bullet-proof vests and brandishing long guns, could be seen entering a luxury townhome complex near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
An FBI spokesperson, Dave Fitz, confirmed that the agents had gone to the house of the man his father in Baltimore. He refused to quite specific, citing the ongoing investigation. T. J. Smith, chief spokesman for the members of the Police Department, also said that the agency deployed to the enforcement of the law partners “with some information that has led authorities to Baltimore.”
In Washington, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump was informed of the attack and the White House was monitoring the situation.
The Jacksonville Landing, in the heart of the city, also hosts concerts and other entertainment. It was the site of a Trumpet, rally in 2015, in the beginning of his campaign for the White House.
Marquis Williams said the shooting was a tragic sign that the elected representatives must take action to the force of arms to quell.
“Politicians, wake up because the people you are supposed to represent, to die,” Williams said. “Stop sitting on your ass. Stop collecting checks and do something.”
Farrington reported from Tallahassee, Florida. Associated Press Writer Tamara Lush contributed to this report from the Tampa area and Laura Heald from Jacksonville, Florida.