A gunman has opened fire at an online video game tournament that was being livestreamed from a Florida mall, killing multiple people and sending many others to hospitals, authorities said.
Sherriff Mike Williams said three people died in the incident, including the gunman, at the Jacksonville Landing, a collection of restaurants and shops along the St Johns River.
Eleven other people were wounded by gunfire and are in stable condition and two others were hurt while fleeing the shots, Sheriff Williams said.
He said the suspect died from a self-inflicted gunshot.
Sheriff Williams said he believed the shooter was 24-year-old David Katz of Baltimore.
He said the FBI was searching the man’s home as part of the investigation.
Sheriff Williams said Katz is believed to have committed the shooting with a single handgun, and was in Jacksonville for the Madden NFL 19 video game tournament.
The games maker, EA Sports, lists a David Katz as a 2017 championship winner.
The competition was held in a gaming bar that shares space with a pizzeria. Viewers could watch the games online and see the players.
Shots and cries heard on live stream video
Investigators were looking into online video that appeared to capture the scene just before the shooting began, Sheriff Williams said.
A red dot that appears to be a laser pointer is visible on the chest of a player seconds before the first of a dozen gunshots rings out.
Players can be seen reacting to the gunfire and cries can be heard before the footage cuts off.
Jason Lake, the founder and CEO of Complexity, a company that owns professional e-sports teams, said on Twitter that one of his players, 19-year-old Drini Gjoka, was shot in the thumb.
Mr Gjoka also said on Twitter: “The tourney just got shot up. I’m leaving and never coming back.”
Then: “I am literally so lucky. The bullet hit my thumb. Worst day of my life.”
Tournament participant Marquis Williams, 28, and his girlfriend, Taylor Poindexter, 26, both from Chicago, were ordering pizza at the bar when they heard the gunfire.
Mr Williams said people trampled each other trying to get away.
“Initially we thought it was a balloon popping, but there weren’t any balloons in the room. Then we heard repeat shots and we took off running.”
Ms Poindexter said they fled when the gunfire erupted. She said she saw Katz take aim at his victims.
“We did see him, two hands on the gun, walking back, just popping rounds,” she said.
“I was scared for my life and my boyfriend’s.”
Another gamer, Chris “Dubby” McFarland, was hospitalised after a bullet grazed his head.
“I feel fine, just a scratch on my head. Traumatised and devastated,” he wrote on Twitter.
A man who was inside the venue at the time sought refuge in the bathrooms.
“This happened so quick, like, we just seen the gun and everybody just started running, and I dug down and I went towards the restroom,” he said.
“There were just so many gunshots, at least 20 of them.”
Police used social media to send messages
Emergency crews and police flooded into Jacksonville Landing soon after the incident and police barricaded a three-block radius around the mall, while officers and coast guard boats patrolled the nearby river.
Many ambulances could be seen in the area, but the mall area appeared empty of all but law enforcement. Police also took up positions on a bridge overlooking the river.
Earlier, the sheriff’s office used Twitter and Facebook to warn people to stay far away and to ask anyone who was hiding to call 911.
Police also said on Twitter that many people had been found hiding in locked areas at The Landing.
They urged people to stay calm, stay where they were, and wait for police to conduct a methodical search to find them.
US President briefed
Florida Governor Rick Scott said he had offered the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office any state resources it needed.
President Donald Trump had also been briefed and was monitoring the situation in Jacksonville, the White House said.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson expressed his “shock and outrage” at the news of another mass shooting in the state.
In February this year, 17 people were massacred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, while 49 people were killed in a shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando two years ago.
Reacting to news of the shooting during a tournament involving its video game, Madden 19 maker Electronic Arts Inc said it was working with authorities to gather facts.
“This is a horrible situation, and our deepest sympathies go out to all involved,” the company said on Twitter.