'Madden' gunman David Katz twice hospitalized for mental health

Shooting suspect's parents clashed over his treatment, divorce filings show

BALTIMORE, Md. – A picture began to form Monday of David Katz, the Baltimore man suspected of carrying out a mass shooting at a Jacksonville video game tournament.

Katz, 24, acted alone Sunday when he burst into the GLHF Game Bar at The Landing armed with two guns, gunning down two people and wounding nine more, according to Sheriff Mike Williams.

“He walked past patrons in other parts of the business and targeted gamers” competing in the “Madden NFL 19” tournament before eventually taking his own life, Williams said.

Twitch, a popular streaming service, was broadcasting the tournament live when the shooting happened. Over a dozen gunshots were followed by screams as gamers scrambled for cover.

Though only one firearm was used in the shooting, Williams said Katz purchased both guns legally in Maryland within the past two weeks. One was equipped with an “after-market laser sight.”

A motive in the case has not yet been released. But fellow gamers have speculated on social media that Katz’s elimination from the tournament may have had something to do with the carnage.

Court records filed as part of his parents’ divorce indicated Katz was twice hospitalized in his teenage years for mental illness, and that he was prescribed for anti-psychotic and anti-depressant drugs.

The divorce filings, obtained by The Associated Press, suggest Katz was obsessed with video games growing up, often at the expense of his education and personal hygiene.

Parents' rift over Katz's treatment

Records show Katz’s parents clashed over his mental health.

“His hair would very often go unwashed for days,” mother Elizabeth Katz said, according to court transcripts. One time, she said, he punched a hole in a door after she confiscated his games.

Katz missed extensive time in school while staying with his mother. He was placed in an Ellicott City mental health facility for 12 days in 2007 and later had a 13-day stay at a Rockville facility.

But, according to his father, Katz was not “diagnosed as psychotic.” Instead, he suggested his son’s mother lied to mental health care professionals and relied on counseling in lieu of parenting.

Richard Katz claimed his son’s relationship with his mother was frayed, noting that “David routinely expresses his anger” toward her, adding that his son was well behaved under his supervision.

The same records indicated Katz’s mother twice asked him to leave her home and frequently called police on him, including one episode in which she accused her son of assault.

Despite poor grades and attendance, Katz graduated in 2011 from Hammond High School in Howard County. He later enrolled in courses at the University of Maryland, but did not graduate.

'Something off about him'

All was quiet Monday at Katz's father's residence in Baltimore's affluent Federal Hill neighborhood, a noticeable difference from the scene when federal agents raided the home the night before.

Neighbors said they saw the young man, described as a loner, infrequently. Those living near his mother's home in Columbia had even less to say, ordering a News4Jax crew to leave.

Katz, a competitive gamer who went by the nickname “Bread,” had won previous video game tournaments, including the Madden 2017 Bills Championship and the $3,500 prize that came with it.

Shay Kivlen, a rival gamer, said he and fellow competitors knew little of Katz beyond what they gleaned from his gameplay. He said Katz was smart, but noted that “something was off about him.”

Katz never acquired a reputation as a trash-talker, Kivlen said, but he stood up and “let out the weirdest scream ever” following a 2017 tournament victory.

“He’s a man of business,” announcers from a previous tournament said of Katz. “He’s not here for the experience … He’s not here to make friends. He’s all business. He’s focused.”

Unanswered questions remain

It's unclear how Katz obtained the weapons he carried during the shooting.

Williams said both guns were legally purchased in the suspect's home state, including one affixed with what he called an "after-market" laser sight.

Under federal law, gun buyers are required to inform a seller if they have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

In addition, Maryland state law outlaws the sale of a gun to someone who has been diagnosed with a mental disorder, or who has a history of violent behavior.

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.