On Sunday, August 26, a Madden NFL 19 tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, quickly turned into a nightmare as David Katz, 24, reportedly opened fire on other gamers. He killed two gamers and shot several others before turning the gun on himself, leaving the crowd of gaming enthusiasts confused and fearful. For the first time, survivors of the shooting are telling their stories of those horrifying, life-changing minutes.
One survivor, Tony Montagnino, commented that, "never in a million years would I have thought I would get shot playing John Madden football ... it can happen anywhere."
Montagnino told Good Morning America he was playing Madden when he heard several loud noises:
My first reaction, I heard the shots and I thought, 'Why is there firecrackers in here?
Suddenly, however, he felt a surge of pain in his leg and back:
And then I actually got hit and, you know, I've never been shot before, so I didn't know what to think and then I turned around and actually ... saw the flashes from the gun and at that point [I] just went into survival mode and just wanted to make sure I was out of there.
"All i can think about is getting my phone so I can text some of my family just let them know you know that I care… https://t.co/Ln8D0Iyac0— CBS This Morning (@CBS This Morning)1535368235.0
Montagnino, a father of two, caught a glimpse of the shooter in the nearby GHLF Game Bar and took cover.
I could see his hair but [not] his face. He was holding the gun up and the flashes were kind of covering his face because I mean he was just letting them rip...And then, again, once I saw the flashes, I didn't want to stick around to try to ID him. So I hit the floor and tried to find cover wherever I could.
The tournament announcer from the Jacksonville shooting describes the chaos--"They died with family and with a brot… https://t.co/z0W5ubnGFX— Good Morning America (@Good Morning America)1535369842.0
Announcer Toshiba Sharon was streaming live online when the shooting began. He witnessed two gamers being killed and immediately flipped over his announcers table to use as a shield.
Sharon wants the families of the victims to know their loved ones did not die alone:
They died with family. And they died with a brotherhood who loved them and they died loving what they do.
Two other survivors, Taylor Poindexter and Marquis Williams, described the "eternity' it felt like it took to escape the tournament:
We didn't see him fire off the first shot but me, personally, I saw him fire off the second, third or fourth shots as he was backing out of the area. So we took off running. I was actually first to make it out, but I fell over people and I was tripping up myself. ... It felt like eternity, but it was probably in the span of a minute and [people] were running yards in front of me and I don't see [Poindexter] anywhere. I'm screaming her name and for a few seconds I didn't see her, and then she finally emerged.
Marquis Williams, 28, and his girlfriend Taylor Poindexter, 26, were in town from Chicago to participate in the vid… https://t.co/xoDyTNdPVL— Joe Daraskevich (@Joe Daraskevich)1535323100.0
Taylor Poindexter came from Chicago to support her boyfriend, who played in the Madden tournament. She saw the sho… https://t.co/iwabK2FSku— Michael Williams (@Michael Williams)1535322489.0
Poindexter suffered a sprained ankle in the crowd's rush to escape:
We hit the floor; I was pushed, trampled and stuff, and I had to get over [people] to get out. The best way I can describe it is, 'I need to get out, I'm trying to live.'
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office identified the two people killed as "Elijah Clayton, 22, of Woodland Hills, California, and Taylor Robertson, 28, of Giles, West Virginia."
RIP: 22-year-old Eli Clayton and 27-year-old Taylor Robertson are the gamers killed in the Madden tournament mass s… https://t.co/dHPd0DqqUE— Joel Franco (@Joel Franco)1535400724.0
Robertson, a husband and father of a two-year-old, was the defending Madden national champion, having won the entire tournament last year in Las Vegas.
Clayton was a high school student and football player whose principal, Brother Tom Fahy, remembered in a statement:
Elijah is remembered by his teachers, counselors and school administrators as a sweet, mild-mannered young man who always showed great respect for his peers and the faculty.