Police barricade a street near Jacksonville Landing in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018.. (AP Photo/Laura Heald)

Competitor: No one deserves to die over playing a videogame

Florida authorities are reporting multiple fatalities after a mass shooting at the riverfront mall in Jacksonville that was hosting a video game tournament

Marquis Williams and Taylor Poindexter at first thought they heard a balloon popping. When the loud bangs kept coming, the Chicago couple and fellow video gamers attending a weekend tournament recognized them as gunfire and began scrambling for an exit.

As he fled, Williams, 28, said, he could see the back of the gunman’s head as the attacker appeared to be walking backward as he fired.

“We didn’t see like a face,” Poindexter, 26, told reporters a few hours after the attack, standing on crutches after spraining her ankle trying to escape. “We did see him with two hands on a gun, walking back just popping rounds.”

The couple said people trampled others in the panic to escape. They ran to a nearby restaurant, where workers were waving people inside, and hid in a bathroom until police arrived.

The deadly violence stunned gamers competing Sunday in Jacksonville during a “Madden NFL 19” video game tournament. Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said the gunman 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 authorities believe 24-year-old David Katz of Baltimore carried out the attack using at least one handgun at the Jacksonville Landing, a collection of restaurants and shops along the St. Johns River. He said final confirmation of the suspect’s identity was pending as the FBI in Baltimore aided in the investigation.

The sheriff said Katz was attending the tournament in Florida. The “Madden” game’s maker, EA Sports, lists a David Katz as a 2017 championship winner.

Authorities did not give a motive for the shootings.

“No one deserves to die over playing a videogame, you know?” said “Madden” competitor Derek Jones, 30, of Santa Fe, New Mexico. “We’re just out here trying to win some money for our families and stuff.”

Related: ‘Multiple fatalities’ as mass shooting breaks out in Florida

Related: Trump refuses to address gun control following deadly Florida shooting

Jones said he was sitting in a back patio outside the tournament venue when he heard the gunshots Sunday. He jumped a fence and ran, leaving behind his backpack and cellphone.

“You know, I’m glad I lost today,” Jones said. “Because if I’d won, I would have been in that game bar right then playing a game and not paying attention. And he could have come and I’d probably be dead right now.”

Jones said he knew Katz by the gamer tags he used online — often “Bread” or “Sliced Bread” — and had played against him online but had never spoken to him personally.

Nine other people wounded 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.

Investigators were looking into an online video that appeared to capture the scene right before the shooting began, Williams said. A red dot that appears to be a laser pointer is visible on the chest of a player seconds before the first of about a dozen gunshots rings out.

Jason Lake, the 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 tourney just got shot up. Im leavinng and never coming back.” Then: “I am literally so lucky. The bullet hit my thumb. Worst day of my life.”

On Sunday evening, the FBI said, its agents searched a family home of the man authorities believed was behind the attack.

Heavily armed agents, some in bulletproof vests and brandishing long guns, could be seen entering an upscale townhome complex near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

An FBI spokesman, Dave Fitz, confirmed that agents had gone to the house of the man’s father in Baltimore. He declined to release specifics, citing the ongoing investigation. T.J. Smith, chief spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department, also said that the agency was assisting law enforcement partners “with some information that has led authorities to Baltimore.”

In Washington, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump had been briefed on the attack and the White House was monitoring the situation.

The Jacksonville Landing, in the heart of the city’s downtown, also hosts concerts and other entertainment. It was the site of a Trump rally in 2015, early in his campaign for the White House.

Marquis Williams said the shooting rampage was another tragic sign that elected officials should take action to curb gun violence.

“Politicians, wake up because the people you’re supposed to be representing are dying,” Williams said. “Quit sitting on your butts. Quit 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.

Russ Bynum And Brendan Farrington, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Nominations open for UFV Betty Urquhart Community Service award

Award recognizes those who make community a better place to live

Parent concerned over privacy breach is a candidate for Chilliwack school board

Brian Mielke said sharing of student names with U.S. research firm shows trustees disregarding law

Chilliwack athletes run in the rain at first cross-country race

Dozens of elementary/middle/high schoolers tackled a mucky course next to Twin Rinks last Thursday.

Fraser River First Nations say they aren’t getting their share of sockeye

Shortage is a result of decisions made by DFO, not a shortage of sockeye, complaint says

Chilliwack Chiefs benefit from BCHL Showcase exposure

Carter Wilkie’s first BCHL goal Saturday against Wenatchee earned him talks with several NCAA scouts.

Video: Flyers new mascot ‘Gritty’ a bearded, googly-eyed terror

The Philadelphia Flyers unveiled their new mascot Monday, and as one would expect of the team that gave us the “Broad Street Bullies,” he’s far from cuddly.

Vancouver, Delta police won’t use new roadside saliva test to detect pot

The Dräger DrugTest 5000 is designed to find THC, the high-inducing part of marijuana

Canada aiming for the moon, and beyond, with new space technology efforts

With an eye on future lunar exploration, Canada’s space agency is calling on companies to present their ideas for everything from moon-rover power systems to innovative mineral prospecting techniques.

New Brunswick Premier meets with lieutenant-governor as Tories, Liberals vie for power

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said the only other leader he had spoken with since results came in was Green Leader David Coon.

Trudeau looks to restart Canada’s UN charm offensive in New York City

Freeland says the question of job retraining in the 21st century — and the uncertainty that surrounds it — is the federal government’s central preoccupation.

Calgary mayor seeks person who leaked details of closed-door Olympic meeting

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he will ask the city’s integrity commissioner to investigate a leak of details from an in-camera council meeting.

South Surrey boy, 10, to help kids in need

Ronin Bulmer, 10, is going door-to-door asking for donations

B.C. MP Cannings spared brunt of Ottawa tornadoes

MP Richard Cannings was spared the impact of the tornadoes that hit the Ottawa region

Edmonton cannabis company revenues more than triples to $19.1 million

Aurora Cannabis revenues more than triple in fourth quarter

Most Read