The CEO of a competitive gaming organization was watching the live-stream of a video game tournament when he heard the screaming and chaos of Sunday afternoon’s mass shooting in Florida unfold in real time.
Jason Lake, CEO and founder of compLexity Gaming, was in Dallas, Texas, nearly 1,000 miles away from the GLHF Game Bar in Jacksonville when gunfire erupted during a tournament for the football video game Madden NFL 19.
“My first reaction was, ‘That’s gunfire.’ And then you have that hesitation where you’re like, ‘There’s no way it could be gunfire,’ ” Lake tells PEOPLE.
Three people were killed in the shooting, including the shooter, who took his own life at the scene.
The gunman has been identified as David Katz, 24, of Baltimore, Maryland.
In addition to those killed, 11 people were transported to hospitals with injuries, including nine with gunshot wounds.
According to Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, the shooter attended the tournament, but police have not discussed a motive. He used at least one handgun, said Williams.
Lake was watching a video that has circulated on social media, which was posted on the tournament’s live-stream. In the video, 12 gunshots can be heard during a Madden match. A voice is heard saying, “Oh, f—, what’d he shoot me with” as other people are heard screaming.
Drini Gjoka, a member of the Dallas-based compLexity team, was struck in the thumb during the shooting, he said on Twitter.
Lake says he saw Gjoka’s tweets before he was able to speak with him, describing the situation as “surreal.”
“We were trying to get in contact with him and discovered that he’d been grazed in the thumb,” Lake says, adding that Gjoka described the situation to him as “chaos and panic and everyone struggling to get out of that building as shots rang out.”
CompLexity employs professional gamers and flies them around the world for competitions. Weeks before Sunday’s shooting, Gjoka was at the Dallas Cowboys’ training camp playing Madden with players during their breaks, Lake says.
“Gaming at its core is something enjoyable that people like to have fun doing with other people, so to have that community shattered at an event like this is truly heartbreaking, says Lake.
He adds, “We are in mourning for everyone. The global esports community is going to be in mourning for a long time to come.”