Jacksonville shooting: 3 dead, including gunman, at Madden tournament


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NBC News) – A gunman killed three people, including himself, and injured 11 during a video game tournament on Sunday in Jacksonville, Florida, authorities said.

Jacksonville County Sheriff Mike Williams identified the suspect as 24-year-old David Katz, of Baltimore.

Nine of the injured victims were struck by gunfire, while two more sustained other wounds, Williams said, adding that all of them were in stable condition. He said there could be other injured victims that they haven’t learned about yet.

Williams said that Katz was in Jacksonville for the competition, the Madden 19 Southeastern Qualifier Tournament, though he declined to discuss a possible motive.

Earlier, the sheriff warned the public to continue to stay away from the area.

“Don’t come downtown to spectate,” Williams said. “We don’t need that.”

Williams declined to provide a specific count of fatalities and injuries until later in the day, but law enforcement officials told local NBC News affiliate First Coast News that four people are dead and 11 are injured.

“We can’t stress enough to stay away. Many blocks away,” the sheriff’s department said in a tweet as the events were developing. Earlier, police had tweeted asking people to remain in hiding as SWAT searched the area.

Williams said at a 4:30 p.m. press conference that authorities had secured the scene and had several witnesses.

University of Florida Health said it had admitted six patients from the shooting, all but one — who was in serious condition — are in good condition. Three people, meanwhile, were admitted to the Jacksonville Memorial Hospital and are stable, according to a hospital spokesperson.

The shooting appears to have occurred inside a pizza restaurant that includes a bar dedicated to video games and other forms of gaming. The bar was in the middle of hosting the Madden 19 Southeastern Qualifier Tournament, which comes with a $5,000 prize. Madden 19 is the latest NFL football video game put out by sports game publisher EA Sports.

On a video of a live stream shared online, individuals playing in the Madden NFL video game tournament are interrupted by a series of popping blasts and screaming.

“What’s he shooting with?” one person can be heard asking in the live-stream audio.

NBC News has not confirmed the authenticity of the video.

Stephen Javaruski told MSNBC that his son, who has the same name, had just made it into the final four of the tournament. But then this afternoon Javaruski and his wife received a text from their son that said there had been a shooting and he had locked himself inside a bathroom stall.

Javaruski said his son told them, “If anything happens, I love you.” That left the father feeling helpless.

“It’s happened before to other people,” said Javaruski, who said his son made it out alive. “You feel really bad and [are] glad it doesn’t happen to you, but it seems like the law of averages today: sooner or later you’re gonna be affected.”

Professional esports club compLexity Gaming said they were “shocked and saddened” by the shooting. Their player Drini Gjoka, an 18-year-old professional video game player, was hit by one of the shots.

“Our player, Drini, was hit in the thumb but is going to be fine,” a club spokesman said. “He managed to escape and run down the street to a nearby gym. He’s currently cooperating with the authorities and we will be flying him out of Jacksonville as soon as we are given the green light from the officials on the ground.”

An EA Sports spokesman said that they were aware of “an incident at a sanctioned Madden Championship Series competition in Jacksonville” and said they were working with authorities to gather additional information

The spokesperson said it was “a horrible situation, and our deepest sympathies go out to all involved.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, said he had spoken to Jacksonville Sheriff Williams and offered any state resources he might need via the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He said he had also spoken to the mayor.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the president had been briefed and was monitoring the situation.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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