JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A California man who played video games to earn money for college and a West Virginian whose e-sports earnings contributed to the maintenance of his children were killed in a Florida tournament where a shooter specifically targeted his fellow gamers, authorities said Monday.
David Katz, 24, of Baltimore fatally shot himself after killing two men and wounding 10 others on Sunday in a pizzeria, and a bar hosting a “Madden NFL 19” – tournament. Katz was among about 130 gamers attending the contest in a mall in Jacksonville.
Court records in Maryland reviewed by The Associated Press show Katz had previously been hospitalized for mental illness. Divorce filing from his parents saying that he as a teenager, he was twice hospitalized in psychiatric facilities and has been prescribed antipsychotics and antidepressants.
Katz had two pistols, one of which is equipped with a laser sight, into the tennis courts, but only fired one of them, the Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams told a press conference Monday. He said surveillance video showed Katz was the only shooter, but his motive is still unknown.
“The defendant clearly directed at other gamers who are in the back room” of the pizzeria, Williams said. “The defendant walked past customers in other parts of the company and focused his attention on the gamers.”
The researchers determined Katz bought both guns in Baltimore in the past month. But Williams said that there is no indication that he was planning the shooting for Sunday.
In a statement Monday evening, EA CEO Andrew Wilson said that he is cancelling the remaining qualifier events to focus on safety.
“We have a decision to stop with our three remaining Madden Classic qualifier events while we perform a comprehensive assessment of the security of the protocols for the competitors and the spectators.”
The sheriff had previously said nine people were injured by gunfire, but told reporters Monday the total is 10. All of them, he said, were expected to recover.
The sheriff’s office identified the dead as 22-year-old Elijah Clayton of Woodland Hills, California, and the 28-year-old Taylor Robertson of Giles, West Virginia.
Clayton’s parents and other family members gathered outside police headquarters Monday in Jacksonville to give a short statement. A cousin, Brandi Pettijohn said the family was “devastated by a senseless act of gun violence.” She said Clayton is a good, quiet man who has never had a fist fight.
“He loved football, and of all the video games that he could play, he settled on it and under the knee ‘Madden,'” Pettijohn said. “He made a good living-gaming, and he saved his earnings, so he could afford to go to university to continue his education.”
Robertson, who with the gamer tag “Spotmeplzzz,” won the Madden Classic tournament in 2016. In a YouTube interview published by EA Sports, Robertson said that he had played Madden NFL since he was 10, and started playing competitively a few years ago.
“It is certainly possible for a player to do this,” Robertson said in the video. “You’ve just got to put in the time. You have to grind. You have to play a lot of games and just working on getting better.”
Other gamers described Robertson as a family man devoted to his wife and children.
Gamer Derek Jones, who lost to Robertson in the 2016 tournament, said his former rival was “one of the nicest people I ever met.”
“There is no way the man did something to deserve being shot,” said Jones, who traveled to the Florida tournament of Santa Fe, New Mexico. “He has a family at home, and he came here to try to win some money for this family.”
Gamer Shay Kivlen of Seattle said he met Clayton, whose gamer tag was Trueboy, about five years ago. They bonded because both games play on a PlayStation 4 — which puts them at odds with the many gamers who prefer Microsoft’s Xbox.
The two friends would chat online everyday, and see each other about six times per year on gaming tournaments. About a week before the Florida shootings, Kivlen said, he was visiting San Diego and Clayton drove 2 ½ hours in rush hour traffic to meet him.
“He was one of the friendliest people, the most genuine guys I’ve ever met,” said Kivlen, 21. “He was really super, and that is what I like about him. If he was happy, you knew he was happy. He wore his emotions on his sleeve.”
Kivlen, and Jones said that they hardly knew Katz, which seemed to avoid conversation with fellow players during the tournaments. Katz ‘ s gameplay is often capricious, Kivlen said.
“He would do all sorts of strange things online that other people wouldn’t do. He would catch a ball and just start to jump out of bounds and things like that, he would have gotten a meter, just hurting himself,” Kivlen said. “I don’t know what he was doing.”
Kivlen, who said that he had ever beaten Katz for a coveted spot in a tournament, heard second hand from a friend that Katz asks for his whereabouts shortly before the shooting.
After the loss of his single-elimination game Sunday, Kivlen said, when he took a nap in his hotel about 20 minutes before the attack. He was watching a live stream of the tournament online when the gunfire broke out.
A friend hide in a bathroom in the hall and answered his phone. When he said Kivlen may have been a goal, Kivlen called the police and an officer was sent to his hotel room for about 90 minutes until they received word that the shooter was dead.
“It’s just not logical, why would he do it,” Kivlen said. “In ‘Madden,’ you never get so crazy against a loss that you would want to do that.”
Associated Press writers David McFadden in Baltimore, John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia, and Tamara Lush in Tampa area contributed to this report.