At a news conference Monday afternoon, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office — along with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — said although 24-year-old David Bennett Katz’s motive is still a mystery, one thing is certain:
“The suspect clearly targeted other gamers,” said Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams. “He walked past patrons who were on other parts of the business and focused his attention on the gamers.”
Then bullets rang out, killing 28-year-old Taylor Robertson of Giles, W.Va., and 22-year-old Elijah Clayton of Woodland Hills, Ca.
Footage then shows Katz turning the gun on himself, police said.
Officials say Katz had brought two handguns and extra ammunition, as well as a laser attachment, into a game room at a Chicago Pizza restaurant inside the Jacksonville Landing — a waterfront shopping and dining complex in downtown Jacksonville where this year’s Madden NFL video-game tournament was taking place.
Although it’s still unclear whether Katz planned the attack ahead of time, police said he bought one 9mm and one .45 caliber handgun about two weeks ago from a licensed dealer in Baltimore — where he’s from.
The Sheriff’s Office would not comment on whether Katz had the guns with him when he entered the tournament or if he walked to his car to retrieve the weapons.
Officials also would not comment on what they found in his vehicle or in his North Florida hotel room, but did confirm that Katz knew the people he killed and wounded.
“There are prior relationships with his victims,” Williams said. “This group travels kind of like a circuit; they were familiar with each other.”
The FBI said Katz’s home was raided Sunday night and that Katz’s parents have been cooperating with law enforcement.
Streaming video of the tournament captured the grisly soundtrack of 12 rounds of shots punctuating screams of wounded gamers and repeated wails of “Oh my God, oh my God!” As the shots end, several people shout, “Where did he go!?”
A short video clip showing Eli Clayton wearing headphones and a red sweatshirt as he worked the control of his game circulated on social media. Clearly visible on his chest: A gun’s red laser targeting dot.
Moments later, he would be dead.
After a few gunshots, the video disappeared and all that remained was audio. The popular online live-streaming platform, called Twitch, soon deleted the footage but social media users had already captured it and all afternoon long it ricocheted across Twitter and Facebook.
“As bad as this was it could have been much worse,” Williams told reporters, noting that there were anywhere from 130 to 150 people at the venue when bullets were fired. “We still don’t have a concrete motive but it’s still an intense and active investigation.”
On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times quoted another gamer who said Sunday’s killer was a losing contestant at the Madden 19 NFL video-game tournament. The shooter “targeted a few people” and shot at least five people, then turned the gun on himself, gamer Steven Javaruski told the Times.
Husband and father Taylor Robertson — the shooter’s second fatality — was the winner of last year’s Madden tournament.
The winner the previous year: Katz, the man who killed him.