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Monday Aug 27 2018

Gunman kills two at video game tournament in Florida


JACKSONVILLE: A gunman killed two people and wounded several others on Sunday when he opened fire at a video game tournament that was being streamed online from a restaurant in Florida, police and local media said.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams named the shooter as David Katz, 24, of Baltimore and said he was in town for the competition. He declined to comment on what led to the third major mass shooting to hit Florida in the last two years.

Williams said Katz killed himself after the shooting and that his body was found along with those of his two victims. The sheriff’s office said 11 people were wounded by gunfire, and at least two others were injured while fleeing the scene.

Dozens of ambulances and police cars flooded into The Jacksonville Landing, a waterfront dining, entertainment, and shopping site in the city’s downtown, after several shots rang out on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

The shooting took place during a regional qualifier for the Madden 19 online game tournament at the GLHF Game Bar inside a Chicago Pizza restaurant, according to the venue’s website.

The bar was live streaming the football video game competition when the gunfire started, according to a video of the stream shared on social media. In the video, players can be seen reacting to the shots and cries can be heard before the footage cuts off.

One Twitter user, Drini Gjoka, said he was taking part in the tournament and was shot in the thumb.

“Worst day of my life,” Gjoka wrote on Twitter.

“I will never take anything for granted ever again. Life can be cut short in a second,” he added.

Another gamer, Chris “Dubby” McFarland, was hospitalized after a bullet grazed his head.

“I feel fine, just a scratch on my head. Traumatized and devastated,” he wrote on Twitter.

According to a video posted by The Florida Times-Union reporter Joe Daraskevich, 28-year-old Marquis Williams and his 26-year-old girlfriend Taylor Poindexter, both from Chicago, were at the event. "They were about 40 feet from shooter," he wrote.

Williams, a Chicagoan, said he was "in the bar" when "we heard a first pop, thought it was a balloon, then we heard multiple pops, took off running trying to get out".

The shooting started "by that time I was done, I [had] lost", he noted, adding that he only saw the shooter's "back, I didn’t see his front".

Taylor Poindexter speaks to reporters after witnessing a gunman open fire on gamers participating in a video game tournament outside The Jacksonville Landing in Jacksonville, Florida August 26, 2018. REUTERS/Joey Roulette

"Everybody was having a good time, playing a game that they love, everybody was relaxing."

The Los Angeles Times said the shooter was a gamer who was competing in the tournament and lost. Citing messages from another player in the room, the Times said the gunman appeared to target several victims before killing himself.

The latest rampage occurred amid a debate over US gun laws that was given fresh impetus by the massacre in February of 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Two years ago a gunman killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Six victims were taken to Jacksonville’s UF Health Hospital, five of them in stable condition and one in serious condition, hospital staff said.

A spokesman for Jacksonville’s Memorial Hospital said it was treating three victims, all of whom were in stable condition.

Jacksonville, on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, is about 35 miles south of the Georgia state line.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican who is challenging longtime Democratic Senator Bill Nelson in November’s election, said he had offered to provide local authorities with any state resources they might need.

“Word of another tragic mass shooting in our state brings shock and outrage,” Nelson said on Twitter.

"Have spoken to FBI. Making sure that all federal resources will be available to assist victims and their families, and to help law enforcement do their jobs," he added later.

Marco Rubio, US senator from Florida, said both the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were coordinating with local authorities to provide assistance.

The ATF had earlier wrote on Twitter that it was "responding to a reported mass shooting in downtown Jacksonville, Fla.".

US President Donald Trump has been briefed and is monitoring the situation in Jacksonville, the White House said.

Reacting to news of the shooting during the tournament involving its game, Madden 19 maker Electronic Arts Inc said it was working with authorities to gather facts.

“This is a horrible situation, and our deepest sympathies go out to all involved,” the company said on Twitter.