JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When the governor and mayor visited Timothy Anselmo in the hospital and posed for a picture, the 25-year-old professional gamer raised a thumb and smiled. He had cause to be happy, or at least relieved. He survived three gunshot wounds in America’s latest mass shooting, during an elite “Madden NFL 19” video game tournament here on Sunday.
The smile shared with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry belied the full truth.
“My grandson is going through so much physically and mentally,” Maria Anselmo told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. “His friend died right beside him.”
The shooting happened in the back of Chicago Pizza at The Jacksonville Landing on the St. John’s River. The open-air complex is a tourist-friendly destination where University of Georgia fans love to party during Georgia-Florida weekend, when UGA meets the University of Florida at TIAA Bank Field.
Authorities say Baltimore gamer David Katz, 24, shot and killed two young men and injured others before turning the gun on himself.
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Monday was a day to assess physical damage and emotional scars in this city about 30 miles south of the Georgia state line.
Before opening fire, Katz had lost several games while acting strangely all day, keeping his shades on and refusing to talk to or shake hands with fellow competitors, witnesses told Action News Jax, a Cox Media Group station.
Naly Vega, manager of the Cinco de Mayo restaurant at The Landing, said the whole development was packed, and she had about 40 customers when people started screaming. Vega, who is pregnant, had no idea what to do, but suddenly she felt herself running around, herding patrons into bathrooms, under tables, into cabinets.
She didn’t realize what was happening at GLHF Game Bar in the back of Chicago Pizza.
Timothy Anselmo, who plays under the name “OLARRY,” was among those shot in the chaos. He ran out a back door with 30 or 40 people.
Jordan Williams, a 23-year-old kitchen captain at the nearby Hooters, saw Anselmo bleeding profusely and hustled him into the restaurant. Williams, who learned first-aid from his registered-nurse mother, placed cloths over wounds on Timothy Anselmo’s chest, hand and hip.
“He was freaking out the whole time,” Williams told the AJC. “He felt like he was bleeding out.”
Williams and the Hooters manager locked the restaurant down, told waitresses to hide in the office and urged everyone away from windows. In the kitchen, Williams stayed with Timothy Anselmo, trying to calm him down until paramedics arrived and police cleared the Landing.
After the police rescued everyone at Cinco de Mayo, Vega went to the hospital. She feared the physical and emotional stress may have harmed her unborn child, but doctors say everything is fine.
She’s since been trying to help her employees deal with the fear caused by the shooting, reminding them this sort of thing doesn’t happen every day.
Like the Anselmos and Williams, she feels gratitude from surviving a situation that for two young men — identified by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office as Taylor Robertson, 27, of Ballard, West Virginia and Eli Clayton, 22, of Woodland Hills, California — was unsurvivable.
But the reality is setting in that survival comes with its own consequences.
Vega knows she’ll have to live with the trauma.
Timothy Anselmo will have to wait to know if he can continue playing video games — his livelihood — after taking a bullet to the hand.
“Woke up crying knowing today’s surgery will determine if I’ll ever be able to play video games again,” he posted on Twitter on Monday.
Williams, though he feels pride for what he did to help, wishes the whole thing never happened.
He said all anyone can do it try to make sure nothing like this happens again, though recent American history dictates that it surely will.