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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Multiple fatalities, including suspect, in mass shooting at Florida mall, authorities say

By Kristine Phillips, Alex Horton and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. Washington Post

At least three people are dead and 11 are injured after a gunman opened fire Sunday afternoon during a video game tournament in Florida that drew professional players from around the world.

The gunman, who police said shot himself, was among the dead. Authorities identified him as David Katz, a 24-year-old man from Baltimore.

The shooting occurred at the Madden NFL 19 competition at Jacksonville Landing, a popular waterfront shopping and dining area in the heart of downtown Jacksonville, Florida. Authorities said they received a 911 call at 1:34 p.m. on Sunday alerting them to a shooting at Chicago Pizza, the mall restaurant hosting the tournament. Officers arrived two minutes later.

Jacksonville County Sheriff Mike Williams said officers found three people dead on the scene, including the gunman, who is believed to be a 24-year-old man from Baltimore. At least 11 more victims were taken to local hospitals, nine with gunshot wounds and two who had been injured while fleeing the scene, Williams said.

Williams said the gunman was attending the competition and took his own life, but added that he did not know the motive or if the suspect knew the victims.

Esports tournaments such as the Sunday event involve professional competitors vying for prize money in games streamed to thousands of online spectators. Prominent esports players carry endorsement deals and have legions of fans, much like professional athletes do. The Jacksonville event, in which competitors played a popular football video game, was a regional qualifier leading to an October final in Las Vegas that was to be broadcast on ESPN, with a top prize of $25,000. More than 3 million players competed in last year’s Madden NFL challenge, making it the top-rated esports broadcast in North America, according to the National Football League.

Electronic Arts, the digital interactive entertainment company in charge of the tournament, said it was aware of the shooting and is cooperating with law enforcement.

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

Video believed to be from a live-stream of the competition on the gaming platform Twitch circulated on social media after the shooting. It showed a red laser dot briefly appearing on a competitor’s sweatshirt before the camera angle switched back to the video game and more than a dozen gunshots rang out. The competitor has not been identified, and it’s unclear whether he was hit.

Danny Flaherty, a 22-year-old gamer from the United Kingdom, said he heard gunshots and that his “only thoughts” afterward were “to run.”

Another player, Drini Gjoka, said a bullet hit him in the thumb.

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

Complexity Gaming, the company that sponsors Gjoka, said he ran down the street to a gym.

“We’re obviously shocked and saddened by this afternoon’s events… . 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,” Complexity Gaming founder and chief executive Jason Lake said in a statement.

Six male shooting victims in their early to mid-20s – four of whom were shot in the torso – were treated at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville, said Marie Crandall, the attending trauma surgeon. The two others were shot in the extremities. One victim is in serious condition, but all are expected to survive.

Three other shooting victims, now in stable condition, were treated at Memorial Hospital in southeast Jacksonville, hospital spokesman Peter Moberg said. And one woman who was not shot, but was hurt while fleeing, was treated for minor injuries at Baptist Medical Center, spokeswoman Cindy Hamilton said.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump was briefed on the shooting and was monitoring the situation.

Gun-control advocates seized on the moment Sunday to call for action against gun violence.

“My thoughts are with everyone impacted by the shooting today at the Jacksonville Landing – but thoughts are not enough,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Twitter. “As we continue to track developments, it’s clear Congress must stop stalling & act to protect Americans from the daily tragedy of gun violence.”

The Jacksonville rampage is the latest mass shooting to erupt in a public place – a wave of violence that has extended nationwide. Florida has suffered a number of high-profile mass shootings in recent years. The gunfire at the Madden NFL 19 competition came six months after a massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.

Parkland student David Hogg, who became a vocal gun-control advocate after the shooting there, tweeted to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on Sunday, “How many mass shootings in your state will it take for you to do something?”

National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch, meanwhile, called for an end to gun-free zones and said security should be in place to keep people safe.

“A horrible tragedy. End gun free zones or have the security in place to keep people safe in them,” she tweeted.