BALTIMORE - Families of victims asking for answers, as police continue to investigate the deadly shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, and provoking new concerns for the gaming community.
A Baltimore man, 24-year-old David Katz opened fire at a mall in downtown Jacksonville on Sunday during a Madden NFL 19 tournament, according to authorities.
Katz is suspected of opening fire during a video game tournament in Jacksonville, killing two and injuring several others before turning the gun on himself.
EA, the gaming company behind the Madden series games, announced on Monday that it would cancel the three remaining Madden Classic qualifier events following the shooting, including tournaments GEXCon, due to take place at the Dulles Expo Center in Fairfax County from Friday to Sunday.
GEXCon officials said they've never had an issue before, but would be taking a closer look at its security following the shooting in Jacksonville. Police told organizers they would have a presence at the event.
"We will work with our partners and our internal teams to establish a consistent level of security at all of our competitive gaming events," said EA CEO Andrew Wilson.
"To Our Players and the Gaming Community,
"I wanted to share some thoughts about the horrific and senseless act of violence that occurred in Jacksonville at the Madden competitive gaming event. I know many of us, myself included, are filled with shock and grief. Our teams have been working non-stop to do what we can to respond to this terrible situation.
"First and foremost, it is an unthinkable tragedy that Taylor Robertson and Elijah Clayton, two of our top Madden competitors, lost their lives in this way. They were respected, positive and skilled competitors, the epitome of the players and personalities at the heart of our community. Their love of competition was evident through their participation in our events over the past few years. We are committed to supporting Taylor and Elijah’s families through this difficult time, and we send our deepest sympathies to their loved ones, to those injured yesterday, and everyone affected.
"The event was a qualifying tournament for the Madden Classic, our first Madden EA Major competition of this season. While these qualifying events are operated independently by partners, we work with them to ensure competitive integrity and to gather feedback from players. We have made a decision to cancel our three remaining Madden Classic qualifier events while we run a comprehensive review of safety protocols for competitors and spectators. We will work with our partners and our internal teams to establish a consistent level of security at all of our competitive gaming events.
"We’ve all been deeply affected by what took place in Jacksonville. This is the first time we’ve had to confront something like this as an organization, and I believe the first time our gaming community has dealt with a tragedy of this nature. Please take time to support each other through this challenging time."
The local community shocked by the events as well after Katz's ties to the DMV were announced. The 24-year-old attended the University of Maryland but was not currently enrolled this semester, according to university president Wallace Loh.
“Our community grieves for the families of those who lost their lives in yesterday’s horrific shooting in Jacksonville. When our community was directly impacted by the shooting in Annapolis this summer, I said that more than silent reflection is needed to end the epidemic of gun violence in our country, and I will say the again today,” Loh said in a written statement. “The alleged shooter was previously enrolled here and was not registered for classes this semester. I encourage anyone at our university with relevant information to reach out to law enforcement to aid in the investigation happening in Florida," said Loh in a statement.
Katz, whose family resided in Howard County, Maryland, attended Hammond High School in Columbia.
According to court records, Katz had previously been hospitalized for mental illness. Divorce filings from his parents stated that as an adolescent, Katz was twice hospitalized in psychiatric facilities and that he was prescribed antipsychotic and antidepressant medications.
Federal law requires gun buyers to disclose whether they have ever been involuntarily committed to a mental institution. Maryland state law also prohibits the sale or transfer of a gun to someone who has been diagnosed with a mental disorder or who has a history of violent behavior.
In recent weeks, Katz legally purchased the two handguns he carried from a gun store in Baltimore, the sheriff said. One of the weapons was equipped with a laser sight that paints the intended target with a glowing red dot. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office did not state whether Katz disclosed his past hospitalizations on the form for the required federal background check.
The two Madden 19 competitors who were killed have been identified by Jacksonville Sheriff's Office as 22-year-old Eli Clayton from Woodand Hills, California, who gamed under the name "Trueboy," and Taylor Robertson, 28, from Giles, West Virginia who used the name "SpotMePlzzz."
Clayton's cousin, Brandi Pettijohn, spoke on the family's behalf, saying family was "devastated by yet another senseless act of gun violence." She said Clayton didn't believe in violence and had never been in a fistfight.
"He made a good living gaming, and he saved his earnings so he could afford to go to college to continue his education," she said.
"My cousin has to bury her firstborn. It is just as terrible as it sounds."
Nine others were injured during the shooting before Katz killed himself, officials stated.
One of the wounded, gamer Timothy Anselimo, is recovering in the hospital after being shot multiple times.
His mother, Sujeil Lopez, says her son may never use his hand again.
"He upset. He’s depressed. He’s hurt. He just said before he went into surgery, he said he can’t believe it happened to him. We see it, we know about it, it's on the news. but you never expect it to hit so close to home, especially at a gaming event, something that’s supposed to be safe. Children were there," she said.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said authorities believe Katz carried out the attack using at least one handgun at the Jacksonville Landing, a collection of restaurants and shops along the St. Johns River. The location, in the heart of the city's downtown, also hosts concerts and other entertainment.
Toshiba Sharon told FOX 13 in Tampa that his co-announcer was shot during the event. He also said Katz was eliminated about 15 minutes before the shooting began. 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.
An FBI spokesman, Dave Fitz, confirmed that agents had gone to the house of the Katz's father in Baltimore. He declined to release specifics, citing the ongoing investigation. T.J. Smith, the 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."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.