JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When Timothy Anselmo heard his 25-year-old son had been shot at a video game tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, on Sunday, the father jumped in his car and drove four hours from home in Tampa, scared he was on the way to learn his boy was dead. Anselmo's mother in Queens, New York immediately prayed, then asked for neighbors to pray and light candles for her grandson, then ran out of her house so fast to catch a flight that she forgot to change out of her bedroom slippers.
Police said three people, including the gunman who opened fire at the Jacksonville Landing, which is an open-air mall on the St. Johns River, died in the shooting, and at least nine were wounded. In spite of the Anselmos' worst fears, the younger Timothy Anselmo, who plays under the name "OLARRY," survived.
He was awake and alert at UF Health Jacksonville after taking three bullets in Florida's latest mass shooting, the family told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution around midnight in the hospital parking lot.
“I found out when I was about eight minutes away he was alive,” the professional gamer’s dad said. “I felt like I won the lotto.”
Jacksonville authorities identified David Katz, 24, of Baltimore, Maryland, as the shooter, who took his own life during the tournament, where competitors from around the country were playing “Madden.”
The elder Timothy Anselmo has been visiting with his son and other gamers who were at the event, including several from Georgia, while trying to piece together what happened. Gov. Rick Scott also visited the 25-year-old a few hours after the shooting.
The victim’s father said the tournament, held in the GLHF Game Bar near a Hooters, was exciting for the players who have known each other only online for years. At the such events, they can finally see their friends, “the face behind the microphone.”
Then horror erupted unexpectedly.
“They said this (shooter) played with them for a few years, and he didn’t associate with any of them. Somebody would ask him a question and he’d say, ‘None of your business,’” the victim’s father said.
The elder Timothy Anselmo said his son, Travis, was watching a live stream online of the game when he heard, “pop, pop, pop, pop,” then silence. He called his brother but got no answer several times.
The brother finally called back and said he’d been shot. He’d fled the room with others and ran into a Hooters cook who was outside having a smoke. The cook ushered the victim to safety and wrapped up one of his wounds.
The family was amazed he survived three shots.
"He was aiming for Timmy,” Maria Anselmo said almost incredulously in the parking lot. “Three times, he was aiming for Timmy.”
The gamer’s father wasn’t so sure the shooter wasn’t just aiming for whoever was in his path.
One bullet struck the 25-year-old’s chest and was still lodged inside his body late Sunday. Another hit his hip. Another hit a devastating spot for a professional gamer: one of his hands, badly damaging his middle finger.
“Now he may never be able to play again,” his dad said, “because the doctors say he might not be able to have feeling.”
He has surgery scheduled for Monday.
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