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The CEO of a competitive gaming franchise was watching the live stream of a video game tournament when he heard the screaming and chaos of Sunday afternoon’s mass shooting unfold in real time.
Jason Lake, CEO and founder of compLexity Gaming, was watching from Dallas, Texas, nearly 1,000 miles away from the GLHF Game Bar in Jacksonville, Florida, when gunfire erupted during a tournament for the football video game Madden 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.
According to a tweet by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the shooting resulted in “multiple fatalities,” with “many transported” to hospitals. The sheriff’s office tweeted there have been “inaccurate numbers being distributed by local and national media.”
At a press conference, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said the male suspect died at the scene, and that there were no other suspects. The suspect has not yet been identified, said Williams.
Lake was watching the same 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 game. 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.
In a series of tweets, Gjoka described the terrifying experience, writing, “The tourney just got shot up. [I’m leaving] and never coming back.” He added, “Worst day of my life.”
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 to compete against other gamers. 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.”
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