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Florida shooting killed gamers seeking money for college, family

A California man who played video games to earn money for college and a West Virginian whose e-sports winnings helped support his young family were slain at a Florida tournament where a gunman specifically targeted fellow gamers, authorities said Monday.

2 slain, 10 injured before suspect killed himself at Jacksonville e-sports competition

Police gather in Jacksonville Landing in Florida following the mass shooting Sunday that left two people dead before the alleged gunman took his own life. (Laura Heald/Associated Press)

A man who played video games to earn money for college and a father whose e-sports winnings helped support his young family were slain at a Jacksonville, Fla., tournament where a gunman specifically targeted fellow gamers, authorities said Monday.

Authorities say David Katz, 24, of Baltimore, fatally shot himself after killing the two men and wounding 10 others Sunday inside a pizzeria and bar that were hosting a Madden 19 tournament. Katz was among about 130 gamers attending the competition at a shopping mall.

Court records in Maryland reviewed by The Associated Press show Katz had previously been hospitalized for mental illness. Divorce filings from his parents say that as an adolescent he was twice hospitalized in psychiatric facilities and was prescribed antipsychotic and antidepressant medications.

Katz carried two handguns, including one equipped with a laser sight, into the tournament venue but only fired one of them, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams told a news conference Monday. He said surveillance video revealed Katz was the only shooter, but his motive remains unknown.

Family members of the victims of the mass shooting speak at a news conference on Monday. (John Raoux/Associated Press)

"The suspect clearly targeted other gamers who were in the back room," of the pizzeria, Williams said. "The suspect walked past patrons who were in other parts of the business and focused his attention on the gamers."

Investigators determined Katz bought both guns in Baltimore within the past month. But Williams said there's no indication he planned the shooting before Sunday.

The sheriff had previously said nine people were wounded by gunfire, but told reporters Monday the total was 10. All of them, he said, were expected to recover.

Families 'devastated'

The sheriff's office identified the dead as 22-year-old Elijah Clayton of Woodland Hills, Calif., and 28-year-old Taylor Robertson of Giles, W. Va.

Clayton's parents and other relatives gathered outside police headquarters Monday in Jacksonville to give a brief statement. A cousin, Brandi Pettijohn, said the family was "devastated by yet another senseless act of gun violence." She said Clayton was a good, peaceful man who never had a fistfight.

"He loved football, and out of all the video games he could play, he settled on and mastered Madden," Pettijohn said. "He made a good living gaming, and he saved his earnings so he could afford to go to college to continue his education."

'Everyone was screaming in fear,' recounts one witness to the shooting at the Madden 19 online game tournament at GLHF Game Bar 0:24

Robertson, who used the gamer tag "Spotmeplzzz," won the Madden Classic tournament in 2016. In a YouTube interview published by EA Sports, Robertson said he had played Madden games since he was 10 and started playing competitively a few years ago.

Fellow gamers described Robertson as a family man dedicated to his wife and children.

Gamer Derek Jones, who lost to Robertson in the 2016 tournament, said his onetime rival was "one of the nicest people I ever met."

GRAPHIC CONTENT: Gunfire heard at Florida video game tournament:

GRAPHIC CONTENT: Players at a video game tournament heard reacting as a shooting unfolds 0:31

"There's no way that guy did anything to deserve to get shot," said Jones, who travelled to the Florida tournament from Santa Fe, N.M. "He's got a family at home, and he just came out here to try to win some money for this family."

Gamer Shay Kivlen of Seattle said he met Clayton, whose gamer tag was "Trueboy," about five years ago. They bonded because both of them played games on a Playstation 4 — which put them at odds with many gamers who prefer Microsoft's Xbox.

The two friends would chat daily online and see each other about six times a year at gaming tournaments. About a week before the Florida shootings, Kivlen said, he was visiting San Diego and Clayton drove two-and-a-half hours in rush hour traffic to meet him.

"He was one of the kindest people, most genuine guys I've ever met," said Kivlen, 21. "He was super real, and that's what I loved about him. If he was happy, you knew he was happy. He wore his emotions on his sleeve."

Kivlen and Jones said they barely knew Katz, who seemed to avoid conversation with fellow players during tournaments.

"It just doesn't make sense why he would do it," Kivlen said. "You never get so mad at a loss that you would want to do that."