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Jacksonville shooter had troubling history but passed a background check to buy a gun

Jacksonville video game shooter David Katz was hospitalized twice in psychiatric units, had 26 police visits to his family home and was deemed to have a capacity for violence by a psychologist – but still got a gun legally, court papers reviewed by reveal.

Katz, 24, shot dead two people before killing himself on Sunday at a ‘Madden 19’ tournament in Florida. The gun he used was one of two weapons he had purchased weeks earlier in his hometown of Baltimore from a licensed dealer.

But court records reveal his lengthy history of mental health problems.

Katz was twice hospitalized in Maryland psychiatric facilities in his teens and prescribed powerful anti-psychotic drugs and anti-depressants, Howard County Circuit Court records showed.

In August 2007, Katz was admitted to the Sheppard Pratt Health System in Townson for 12 days, where he was treated with anti-depressants. He spent 13 days at Potomac Ridge, a mental health facility in Rockville around three months later.

Katz in his high school photo

Troubling past: David Katz was twice admitted into a psychiatric facility and was prescribed powerful anti-psychotic drugs and anti-depressants as a teen

In Maryland, gun buyers will fail a background check if they are involuntarily committed for any period of time to a psychiatric ward or voluntarily admitted for more than 30 consecutive days.

Katz’s stays were less than two weeks and he does not appear to have involuntarily committed – a process that requires the sign-off from an administrative court judge in most cases.

Police were called to the Katz home at 9558 Many Mile Mews in Columbia 26 times between 2003 and 2009 – 14 calls required no written follow-up and 12 calls had accompanying incident reports.

Among the reasons for call-outs were sex offense, medical emergency, check on welfare, police information, domestic, mental illness, civil dispute, runaway and police assist, according to Howard County Police Department.

Katz, who does not appear to ever have been arrested or charged with a crime, was not flagged by any of the multiple background checks which are run by state police when he went to buy a gun.

In court filings seen by, a psychologist told family court that David Katz may have the capacity for violence. ‘He expressed a great deal of hurt and anger towards his mother,’ Dr Berman told the court in August 2007.

His mother, however, appeared not to believe it. In a custody case transcript in 2007, she is asked under cross-examination whether she agreed with Dr Berman that her son could be a threat to her safety.

Mrs Katz replied: ‘I believe he has pushed me in the past. Do I think that he would take a weapon out and harm me? No, I don’t.’

RIP: Katz shot dead fellow gamers Eli Clayton, 22

Taylor Robertson, pictured with his wife and baby, was also killed in the shooting

RIP: Katz shot dead fellow gamers Eli Clayton (left) 22, and Taylor Robertson (right) 27, before killing himself, after losing in a video game tournament 

Katz injured nine others, including Timothy Anselimo (pictured with Florida governor Rick Scott) 

Katz injured nine others, including Timothy Anselimo (pictured with Florida governor Rick Scott) 

In a letter to the judge in his parents’ divorce case when he was 16, Katz expressed hatred for his mother and begged to live with his father.

‘I hate her more than anything in the world. I hate everything about her,’ he wrote in the letter. ‘She has hit me before and always takes my stuff. I never have enough food at my mom’s, but I have plenty to eat at my dad’s.’

Dr Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told that there was ‘no easy answers’ in the case because there was nothing in David Katz’s background to prevent him from owning a gun.

‘In this case, it appears there was no legal justification to keep this individual from owning a gun,’ Dr Webster said. 

‘Generally speaking, it’s based on a history of violence and serious criminal activity. Our mental health disqualifiers tend to be those that are connected to a mental illness causing dangerous and violent behavior.’

He added: ‘We have these high-profile shootings that we dissect to try to make some broad conclusions about gun policy and gun violence. The reality is most people who commit acts of violence have violent pasts and should be prohibited from owning guns.’

Katz shot dead Eli Clayton, 22, and Taylor Robertson, 27, and wounded nine others before killing himself on Sunday.

The gamer, who drove to Jacksonville from his Baltimore home, had legally purchased a .45 caliber handgun and a 9mm pistol in Maryland, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department confirmed. 

Katz passed a background check and was able to legally purchased a .45 caliber handgun and a 9mm pistol in Maryland days before carrying out the shooting 

Katz passed a background check and was able to legally purchased a .45 caliber handgun and a 9mm pistol in Maryland days before carrying out the shooting 

He later fitted the gun with a laser sight – which can be seen trained on Clayton’s chest moments before he was killed on a chilling livestream video.

According to court records seen by, Katz’s parents, Elizabeth Katz, a 60-year-old former toxicologist for the USDA and Richard Katz, a NASA engineer, 58, bitterly clashed over how to deal with their son’s problems. They divorced in 2007.

Mrs Katz took her son to doctors who prescribed Prozac and an anti-psychotic called Risperdal, apparently against her husband’s wishes.

‘Richard Katz has seen no evidence whatsoever of schizophrenia in David Katz. David seems well aware of reality at all time… Indeed, Elizabeth Katz provides no evidence whatever showing that either child is suffering from schizophrenia,’ one filing reads.

Maryland law requires psychiatric facilities to report to the State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene any individual who has been admitted.

When a person attempts to buy a gun, police require their written authorization for the Department of Health to disclose whether they suffer from a mental disorder, have a history of violent behavior or have been confined for more than 30 days to a psych ward.

In a statement, a Maryland State Police spokesman said: ‘At the request of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, due to their ongoing criminal investigation, I am unable to speak directly about information involving David Katz.’

State police, who are responsible for gun purchases, noted that their investigators have no access to any information regarding the condition or treatment of individuals – nor does the Maryland Department of Health have all the mental health information from private facilities.

There is no database of persons ‘suffering from a mental disorder’, according to police.

Bitter dispute: The battling parents' differing positions on their son's mental health were set out in hundreds of pages of legal documents in court in Columbia, MD. The court case also revealed Katz harbored a 'hatred' towards his mom 

Bitter dispute: The battling parents’ differing positions on their son’s mental health were set out in hundreds of pages of legal documents in court in Columbia, MD. The court case also revealed Katz harbored a ‘hatred’ towards his mom 

If a person suffers from a mental disorder, the only way investigators would be made aware, is if someone came forward to notify that the person is a danger. Based on a doctor’s affirmation, an application to purchase would be denied.

‘This process was implemented as a way for state agencies to do what we could to attempt to identify those with prohibiting mental health related issues identified in state records,’ state police wrote.

On October 1, Maryland will introduce a new ‘red flag law’, following the shooting in an Annapolis newsroom in June, which left five people dead.

 Court documents show Katz's father Richard, was against his son taking anti-depressants and anti-psychotic meds

 Court documents show Katz’s father Richard, was against his son taking anti-depressants and anti-psychotic meds

The legislation, an extreme risk protective order law, will allow relatives and law enforcement to temporarily restrict a person’s access to guns if they are found to be a risk to themselves or others. This new law may not have applied to David Katz as so far, no details have emerged that he recently presented a danger to himself or others.

State law requires courts in Maryland to report anyone who is ‘mentally incompetent to stand trial’ or assigned a guardian when they cannot manage their affairs to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Before someone can get a handgun license, state police run background check on a number of databases including arrests and prosecutions, protection orders and civil offenses, and the Department of Juvenile Services.

Under federal law, people are typically banned from buying guns if they have ever been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility, according to the AP.

Across the U.S., there is no requirement for psychiatric hospitals or courts to report involuntary commitments to the FBI for inclusion in a database used for gun-purchase background checks.

Katz’s mental health problems appear to have stemmed from childhood. Howard County Circuit Judge Lenore Gelfman wrote in 2010: ‘David would go days without bathing, would play video games until 4am on school nights, would walk around the house in circles.

‘[He] was failing all classes at Hammond High, was unresponsive to school teachers and uncooperative with school psychotherapists/counselors and was extremely hostile toward his mother.’

At one point, when his mother attempted to take away his video game controllers, he punched a hole through her bedroom door to retrieve them, she told the court.

His parents could not be reached for comment after multiple attempts by


By Ben Ashford 

Video game addict-turned mass shooter David Katz was such a ‘sore loser’ he would fly into a rage and stew over defeats for days, a former school friend has told 

Zachary Kocher said Katz would turn up to class at Hammond High School in Columbia, Maryland complaining about his online match-ups the previous nights if he didn’t win. He said his former friend – who didn’t have a single girlfriend and typically smelled like he hadn’t showered for days – took each defeat so personally it would make him angry and bitter. 

Katz, 24, went on a shooting rampage Sunday afternoon at the Madden NFL 19 tournament in Jacksonville, Florida killing two gaming rivals and injuring 11 more people before turning the gun on himself. 

‘I don’t believe he went there with the intention of shooting up the place but I think losing was the trigger,’ said Kocher, 25, who graduated with Katz in 2011. 

‘I don’t think it was necessarily the cause because David had a lot of problems and things going on at home – but it was probably what sent him over the edge.’ 

Kocher recalled his former classmate as constantly ‘giving off an aura of depression’. Nonetheless the pair were friends and enjoyed talking about video games. 

‘David was most definitely an addict. He always wanted to be a professional gamer,’ he told 

‘He may have played the occasional war game like Call of Duty but sports games were his passion, especially Madden, NHL Hockey and 2K basketball. 

‘He never played any actual sport or did anything else outside of school, he was just anxious to get home every day so he could play his games. ‘He was a sore loser. He took losing really personally. If he lost a Madden game the night before he would come in moaning about it, saying it was total BS. 

‘It was never his fault, it was the game itself that was suddenly trash or not up his standards. His self-esteem was entirely wrapped up in the game.’ 

Kocher said Katz was shunned by girls and regarded as ‘weird’ by fellow students. He said the gaming fanatic often seemed disheveled and tired as if he had been playing through the night. 

‘David tried to get a girl but they didn’t really like him because of the way he acted. He always seemed down,’ said Kocher, a retail worker from Columbia, Maryland. 

‘He never smiled. I don’t know if he took drugs but I suspected possible marijuana use. ‘He would come in to school looking like he was dragged out of bed. His eyes would be baggy.

‘I don’t think he was very hygienic – he typically smelled like he hadn’t taken a shower in a while.’ Despite his former friends apparent depression and obsession with games, Kocher said he was still shocked by his murderous gun rampage. 

‘When I saw his picture it blew my mind. I said Holy crap, that was my school friend,’ he added.

‘People may have said he was weird but he was cool with me. ‘I was very surprised that he would go as far as killing people – but I was not surprised that he would react badly to losing.”


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