Shooting Suspect Had History of Mental Illness

BALTIMORE (AP) -
jacksonville shooting
Police investigate the scene of the shooting in Jacksonville, Sunday. (Will Dickey/Florida Times-Union via AP)

The suspect in a deadly shooting at a Florida video game tournament had previously been hospitalized for mental illness, according to court records in his home state of Maryland reviewed by The Associated Press.

Divorce filings from the parents of 24-year-old David Katz of Baltimore say that as an adolescent he was twice hospitalized in psychiatric facilities and that he was prescribed antipsychotic and antidepressant medications.

The records show Katz’s parents disagreed on how to care for their troubled son, with his father claiming his estranged wife was exaggerating symptoms of mental illness as part of their long and bitter custody battle. The couple divorced in 2007.

Katz opened fire Sunday at a gaming bar inside a collection of restaurants and shops along the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. He killed two people and wounded nine others before fatally shooting himself during the tournament, authorities said.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams has declined to comment on the gunman’s motive.

The suspect’s father, Richard Katz of Baltimore, and his mother, Elizabeth Katz of Columbia, Maryland, did not respond to phone messages Sunday or Monday. Efforts by the AP to reach them at their homes were also unsuccessful.

Divorce filings say David Katz played video games obsessively as a young adolescent, often refusing to go to school or to bathe. Elizabeth Katz, a toxicologist who worked at the Department of Agriculture, said she would confiscate some of her son’s gaming equipment after finding him playing games in the wee hours.

“His hair would very often go unwashed for days. When I took his gaming equipment controllers away so he couldn’t play at 3 or 4 in the morning, I’d get up and find that he was just walking around the house in circles,” the mother said, according to a transcript included in the court files.

At one point, she put his gaming controllers in her bedroom behind a locked door and he punched a hole in the door, she said.

Elizabeth Katz said her youngest son had increased difficulty concentrating following his parents’ split. A judge awarded custody of the boy to his mother, with visitation rights to the father.

The younger Katz was known to barely speak to fellow gamers and sometimes exhibited an erratic playing style, according to other competitors.

“We’ve always known he was a little off and stuff just because he wasn’t social at all,” Shay Kivlen, 21, of Seattle, said Monday in an interview.