Florida shooting: Video gamers killed by rival at tournament

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GLHF Game Bar Facebook account cover imageImage source, GLHF Game Bar
Image caption,
The incident took place in a games bar attached to a restaurant

Two professional video gamers have been named by US media as the victims of a rival player in a shooting at an eSports tournament in Florida.

Eli Clayton, 21, and Taylor Robertson, 27, were both well-known players of the Madden NFL American football game.

Police say David Katz, 24, from Baltimore, carried out the attack at the Jacksonville Landing shopping and entertainment complex on Sunday.

Unconfirmed reports say Katz had become angry after losing a match.

Florida has seen several mass shootings in recent years, including at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, when 49 people died, and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland in February this year, when 17 people were killed.

Who are the victims?

Although the two gamers have not yet been officially named, tributes have been paid to them on social media:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Both had been competing at the Madden NFL 19 event at the GLHF Game Bar, attached to Chicago Pizza in Jacksonville Landing when the shooting erupted on Sunday afternoon.

Eli, or Elijah, Clayton was known by the handle Trueboy. He had played football at two of his high schools and was seen as a rising star in the increasingly lucrative eSports field.

Taylor Robertson, who took the handle SpotMePlzzz, was also a successful eSports player, having won the Madden 17 Classic. His Twitter feed lists him as a father, husband and pro-Madden player for Dot City Gaming.

In a two-part tweet, Dot City Gaming confirmed the death of the two players.

"We are shocked and deeply saddened by the senseless violence in Jacksonville and the tragic deaths of Dot City Gaming team member, Taylor 'SpotMePlzzz' Robertson, and Eli 'Trueboy' Clayton," the company posted.

"They were great competitors and well-loved members of the Madden community. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to their families, loved ones, and all of those affected by this tragedy."

One of the leading Madden players, Hassan (Gos) Spall, tweeted a tribute:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

EA Sports, the company that owns Madden and approved the competition, told the BBC it was "devastated by this horrific event... a senseless act of violence that we strongly condemn".

It sent its heartfelt sympathies to families of the victims.

How did the shooting happen?

A video stream of the event being aired on the Twitch platform appears to show Eli Clayton and another competitor playing a game when a red laser dot flashes on Mr Clayton's sweatshirt.

Almost a dozen shots are then heard before the transmission is cut.

Media caption,
Florida shooting: 'It shouldn't happen anywhere'

People fled for shelter and Swat teams checked the area.

The body of Katz was then found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police said they believed there were no accomplices.

The Jacksonville sheriff's office said 11 more people had been wounded in the attack, with another two suffering other injuries as they fled.

Image source, CBS
Image caption,
The suspect had won a previous competition, US media report

Who is the gunman?

David Katz, a well-known gamer, lived in Baltimore and had travelled to take part in the event.

He had a history of mental illness, the Associated Press reported, citing Maryland court records.

Katz had twice spent time in psychiatric facilities and was prescribed antipsychotic and antidepressant medications, according to his parents' divorce filings.

He was the winner of at least one Madden championship, in 2017.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

An announcer at a previous competition had said of Katz: "He is not here to make friends. He's all business, he's focused" and that getting him to talk about anything was like "pulling teeth".

Media caption,
Sheriff Mike Williams: "The suspect took his own life"

The FBI confirmed its agents had searched his family home in the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore on Sunday evening and had spoken to relatives.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams has not yet offered details on the suspect's motive.

What did eyewitnesses say?

Drini Gjoka, a 19-year-old player taking part, described the shooting in a series of posts on Twitter, calling it "the worst day of [his] life".

He tweeted that a bullet had hit his thumb.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Another competitor Chris "Dubby" McFarland said a bullet had grazed his head.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Taylor Poindexter from Chicago said she saw the gunman taking aim at people in the room.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Taylor Poindexter: "He was popping rounds"

"We did see him, two hands on the gun, walking back, just popping rounds," she said. "I was scared for my life and my boyfriend's."

Madden competitor Derek Jones told Associated Press news agency: "I'm glad I lost today. Because if I'd won, I would have been in that game bar right then playing a game and not paying attention. And he could have come and I'd probably be dead right now."

What was the tournament?

The event was a Madden NFL 19 qualifier, with a $5,000 (£3,900) top prize.

The leading players would progress to a Madden Classic round of 16 in Las Vegas in October.

Those who make it to the overall finals would play for a share of a $165,000 pool.

Successful eSports players can win lucrative endorsements, earn money from video streaming and play for thousands of dollars in prizes.

The shooting has already sparked calls for greater security at eSports events.