Relatives of Jacksonville shooting victim Elijah Clayton read a statement to reporters. A cousin, Brandi Pettijohn, said the family was “devastated by yet another senseless act of gun violence.” She said Clayton “did not believe in violence.” (Aug. 27)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Several survivors of the deadly shooting rampage at a local gaming bar will file a negligent security lawsuit within days stemming from the carnage that resulted in three deaths, lawyers said Tuesday.
Matt Morgan said his firm’s clients include one person who was shot twice but survived Sunday’s assault. Others suffered physical or emotional injuries when police say David Katz, 24, opened fire at a “Madden NFL 19” video game competition Sunday at GLHF Game Bar.
“Unfortunately, the country has watched this unfold too often in the past,” Morgan said. “This is not the time in America for bare-bones security or, even worse, no security at all.”
Morgan declined to identify his clients but said his law firm continues to get calls from survivors. He also declined to name the likely targets of the litigation. The bar, which occupies space in the back of a Chicago Pizza restaurant, hosted the event. The bar and restaurant are part of the Jacksonville Landing entertainment complex, a waterfront area owned by the city. The event itself was organized by video game giant EA.
“The safety of americans must always come before profits. It must always be people over profits,” Morgan said.
Katz killed two people and wounded 10 others before fatally shooting himself, police said. Morgan said the area has seen other shootings in recent years.
“It is foreseeable that shootings could occur at this location,” he said. “eSports are big business. This is the type of event that has to have the highest level of security.”
Other Jacksonville Landing businesses, closed since the shooting, reopened Tuesday. Some returning workers peered into the windows of Chicago Pizza, where they could see tables and chairs returned to upright positions after many had been toppled by patrons scrambling to flee the bloodbath.
The floor, which had been covered with broken plates and glasses, was spotless. Two Chicago Pizza employees hurried past onlookers, unlocked the front door, went inside, then closed and locked the door.
Tom Horton, owner of 904 Apparel about 50 feet from Chicago Pizza, wasn’t working when gunfire erupted Sunday. But he had to console a few of his employees who witnessed it.
“How does a young man treated for mental health get a gun?” Horton said. “We’ll all get talking about it but there will be no action. It will all die down in three months. … Somehow we have to get back to the value of life.”
Martin Barnett, who lives a couple blocks away, said he was standing along a sidewalk on Sunday when chaos unfolded.
“I didn’t know what was going on, but I didn’t want to go in this direction,” said Barnett, 59. The Milwaukee native, who said he often eats at Chicago Pizza, called the shooting senseless.
“It had nothing to do with here, nothing to do with gaming,” Barnett said. “It was a sad day and a sad event.”
He said while the Landing has struggled in recent years, with some shuttered shops and crime in and near the outdoor marketplace, he wants it to remain open.
“I hope this doesn’t put the final nail in the coffin,” he said. “It’s just such a unique place in Jacksonville.”
Sunday’s Madden competition was a qualifying event for the Madden Classic, a national competition offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money. EA said it was canceling the three remaining qualifiers pending a review of safety procedures.
The fatalities included Taylor Robertson, 27, of Ballard, West Virginia, and Eli Clayton, 22, of Woodland Hills, California, who were competing in the Jacksonville event. Robertson, a husband and father, won the Madden Classic in 2017.
“They were respected, positive and skilled competitors, the epitome of the players and personalities at the heart of our community,” EA CEO Andrew Wilson said. “Their love of competition was evident through their participation in our events over the past few years.”
John Wester, with the Tampa field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said Katz was armed with two handguns purchased legally within the last month from a licensed dealer in Baltimore, where Katz lived.
One of the weapons had an aftermarket laser sight attached to the trigger, officials said. A livestream broadcasting the Jacksonville tournament showed what appears to be a red laser dot on a victim’s chest seconds before the shooting began.
Divorce papers involving the parents of Katz indicate that he had been treated at psychiatric facilities as a teen.
Federal law requires gun buyers to disclose any involuntarily commitments to a mental institution. Maryland background checks deny gun sales to anyone involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility for any period of time or voluntarily admitted for at least 30 consecutive days.
Katz’s two known hospitalizations as an adolescent apparently did not reach that threshold, said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.
Bacon reported from McLean, Va. Contributing: The Associated Press
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