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Gun violence in the US

Laser dot appears on gamer’s chest, then the shooting begins, in video of deadly Florida attack

Three people are dead, including laser-targeted player Eli Clayton and suspected gunman David Katz, after the attack on a video game tournament in Jacksonville that was being streamed online

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 August, 2018, 8:22am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 August, 2018, 2:27pm

A red laser dot appeared on the chest of a video gamer at a tournament as it was being live-streamed from a Florida mall, moments before shooting erupted and the player was killed.

The gunman who opened fire at a busy Jacksonville, Florida, pizzeria during the competition – killing two gamers and wounding up to nine others before killing himself – has been identified as a player who had been defeated earlier in the tournament.

The suspect, David Katz, 24, of Baltimore, sometimes played under the name “Bread” or “RavensChamp” while competing in the national circuit of professional gamers who play “Madden NFL 19,” the popular football game.

Officials said Katz opened fire at the Chicago Pizza in the Jacksonville Landing shopping plaza around 1.30pm Sunday during a regional qualifying round for the Madden NFL Championship series, a national tournament.

The shooter “targeted a few people” before killing himself, according to Stephen “Steveyj” Javaruski, one of the competitors, who took shelter in a bathroom.

The two slain gamers have been identified as Elijah Clayton and Taylor Robertson – better known to their competitors and fans in the gaming world by the handles they adopted for the screen.

“RIP to Trueboy and Spotme,” Javaruski tweeted. “This is the worst day of my life.”

Clayton was the player targeted with the red laser dot in the video.

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Investigators were looking into the video that appeared to capture the scene right before the shooting began.

A red dot is visible on Clayton’s chest seconds before the first of a dozen gunshots rings out. The Post has decided not to show this part of the video.

“What did he shoot me with?” says a male voice on the video.

Sunday’s shooting was the latest in a tragic sequence for Florida, which was home to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016 and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in February.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, whose office said he was headed to Jacksonville to meet with law enforcement officials about the shooting, tweeted that US President Donald Trump had “offered any federal resources needed to respond.”

Each of the Florida tragedies invaded a corner of American culture that was supposed to be safe from mass violence. This time the victims are gamers, and the city is Jacksonville.

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“Jacksonville is mourning,” Mayor Lenny Curry said. “We have faced an occurrence that is all too common.”

Such tournaments are common in the increasingly lucrative world of professional gaming. Talented gamers and personalities who take up popular titles such as “Madden” and “Overwatch” can harness social media to rack up fans and endorsement deals while earning advertising revenue from streaming video services. The online audiences can be massive.

And just like in the living room – where emotions can run so high that players use the term “rage quitting” for sore losers who won’t play to the end – professional matches can be tense. The stakes can be thousands of dollars, larger audiences and sometimes just honour.

But the violence stays on-screen. At least until Sunday.

Clayton was on the 2012 football team at Chaminade High School in Los Angeles’ West Hills section and played football at nearby Calabasas High School in 2013.

Twelve victims had gunshot wounds, and two others suffered injuries while escaping, officials said. All the hospitalised victims as of Sunday evening were in stable condition except for one, who was in serious condition.

The gaming community reacted in shock, and some industry figures tweeted that security was often lax for such tournaments across the country.

“I’ve been saying events NEED better security,” tweeted Seth Abner, a popular “Call of Duty” player. “Such a damn shame that now event coordinators will respond after a tragedy happens. Thoughts are with everyone at the Madden tournament and their families.”

This weekend’s tournament was sanctioned by EA Sports, which owns the Madden franchise.

“We are working with authorities to gather facts at this stage,” EA Sports tweeted. “This is a horrible situation, and our deepest sympathies go out to all involved.”

The two-day competition began Saturday morning. The opening round featured round-robin matchups for as many as 256 players, though it’s not clear how many attended.

The first- and second-place finishers were to advance to the next round in Las Vegas and each receive US$250, plus travel and lodging. The third- and fourth-place finishers were to receive US$1,000 each but not advance.

The operators of the pizzeria, which was hosting the event, couldn’t be reached for comment after the shooting.

The attack could have an impact in the current race for the US Senate seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson, who is being challenged by Scott, a Republican.

After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, Scott broke with the National Rifle Association to sign into law several measures aimed at preventing shootings.

Those measures include raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21; increasing funding for school police officers and mental health services; allowing teachers and staff to carry guns; broadening the power of law enforcement to seize firearms; and banning bump stocks, which essentially convert semi-automatic weapons to automatic ones.

Nelson has called for more gun control.

“Have spoken to FBI,” he tweeted Sunday. “Making sure that all federal resources will be available to assist victims and their families, and to help law enforcement do their jobs.”

The student gun-control activists of Stoneman Douglas quickly leapt into the fray after news of the shooting.

“Remember in November,” activist David Hogg tweeted. “We need everyone to put 100 per cent of their energy into: volunteering on congressional campaigns; registering new voters; voting on November 6th.”

The attack came two days after one student was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting at a Jacksonville high school football game that drew a crowd of 4,000. Investigators said the two male victims – including the student who was killed – had gang ties and were targeted, while the female victim was caught in the crossfire.