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Jacksonville shooting suspect underwent psychiatric treatment, purchased guns legally in Baltimore area

By Hallie Miller and Talia Richman The Baltimore Sun (TNS) • Aug 28, 2018 at 2:00 PM

BALTIMORE — Details are starting to emerge about the life of a Maryland man who police said opened fire at a video game competition in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday.

Authorities have identified 24-year-old David Katz of Columbia as the person who shot and killed two and injured 10 others before taking his own life during a tournament for the Madden football video game franchise. Elijah Clayton, a 22-year-old football star from California, and Taylor Robertson, a 28-year-old from West Virginia, were killed in the shooting.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said at a news conference Monday afternoon that investigators have not yet determined a motive.

He said Katz recently purchased two handguns used in the shooting legally from a licensed dealer in the Baltimore area.

Charles P. Spencer, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville Division, said at the news conference that the agency is continuing to investigate Katz’s actions before the shooting, including where he was, where he stayed and who he had contact with before the shooting. He said the agency is also looking into Katz’s history.

Jacksonville shooter investigation leads to house in Baltimore

“In Baltimore, our agents are working with the subject’s family. His parents — both mother and father — have been fully cooperative with the FBI so far. They’ve provided access to all the records we’ve been requested, and been very understanding of the need for information to ensure the safety of others. This has been vital to advancing the overall investigative effort,” Spencer said.

Filings from Katz’s parents’ divorce, first filed in 2005, reveal Katz’s emotional and social struggles, as well as his troubles in school. The documents note a hospitalization at Sheppard Pratt Health System in Towson for psychiatric treatment.

Katz was a 2011 graduate of Hammond High School in Howard County.

He also attended the University of Maryland previously, but was not enrolled this semester, university President Wallace Loh said. He enrolled beginning in September 2014, and majored in environmental science and technology, a university spokeswoman said. He did not live on campus.

Natalie Gill, a former teaching assistant and graduate student at the University of Maryland, said Katz struggled and kept to himself when he was in her class in the fall 2015. She said the picture of him going around online “with no smiling” reminded her of “how he looked all the time.”

“I knew the other students very well, but he did not open up the same way as the others did,” Gill, 27, said. “I pulled him aside and asked if there was anything I could do to help and he basically had no reaction to that.”

Gill said Katz had a hard time keeping up with the assignments, but thanked her at the end of the semester for “being a good T.A.”

“I thought, ‘maybe I did have a little relationship with him after all,’ Gill said. “It was my first experience as a TA and I wanted to be open minded about everybody.”

For at least part of his life, Katz lived in a tree-lined Columbia neighborhood.

Peggy Marx, 52, remembers the family keeping mostly to themselves. She would invite them to neighborhood barbecues and events, but they’d never come. Some neighbors, Marx said, would comment on how they saw police cars outside the family home. Marx says the Katz family left the neighborhood nearly a decade ago, but she still remembers them. “Them being antisocial,” she said. “That’s the only thing that makes them memorable.”

Another neighbor remembers them somewhat differently. Renee Williamson said the family was very quiet, but did try to reach out occasionally. When Williamson gave birth many years ago, the Katz family brought over a gift. Still, she didn’t know the family well. They once invited her to their son’s karate tournament. They haven’t spoken since the family moved and the parents divorced.

People in the online gaming community said Katz had played under the game tag “RavensChamp” and “Bread.” He had previously won several gaming tournaments and boasted of his prowess in an interview posted to YouTube.

In a video circulating social media, an announcer is heard introducing Katz by commenting on his intense focus and standoffish attitude. “David Katz keeps to himself. He’s a man of business. … He’s not here to make friends.”

Chito Peppler says the city’s gaming community is shaken by a shooting that took place hundreds of miles away, but was allegedly carried out by one of Baltimore’s own. Peppler didn’t know Katz well — he didn’t get the sense he was very sociable — but said the man would occasionally attend the weekly “Hi Score Game Night” at Game, a sports bar near M&T Bank Stadium.

“We feel like, after what happened, it may not be as safe as it was before,” Peppler said. “There should never be a fear of someone taking our lives because of video games.”

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(The Baltimore Suns Jessica Anderson and Tim Prudente contributed to this report.)

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©2018 The Baltimore Sun

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