Damon “Adjust” Kirk was at home in the Detroit suburbs Sunday watching a livestream of his fellow Madden gamers playing at a tournament in Florida.
Just as one of his friends, Elijah “Trueboy” Clayton, was about to score a touchdown, a red laser sight of a gun fell on his chest.
Kirk watched Clayton score. “Then the guy started shooting,” Kirk recalled.
He heard the gunshots online.
Then came the voice of another friend from Indiana, Toliver “Cole” Lynch, who’d recently gotten engaged: “What did he shoot me with?” he cried.
Kirk tried to call Clayton and Lynch, but they did not answer.
Lynch later called back from the hospital. He’d been shot twice in the chest and said one bullet had just missed his heart.
“He survived and he’s doing well,” Kirk said. “He’s thankful to be alive.”
Clayton, though, was one of two shooting victims who didn’t survive the attack in Jacksonville. The suspected killer also died, after turning the gun on himself.
More than a pastime for players, Madden football was a community, Kirk said. Players often log 36-hour Madden sessions on Xbox, especially in the run-up to tournaments, some of which have as much as $700,000 in prize money.
“If you become really good at something, you relate to people at your level,” Kirk said. “You share schemes: what rosters, what guys you should play with…These guys, you talk to them more than your family members.”
When a player recently married, he said, “All the groomsmen were Madden guys.”
He said Clayton — who played high school football in Southern California — had recently placed second at a Madden tournament called Muthead, earning a share of the $20,000 prize.
“He really was the best Madden player this year. He probably would have walked away with a half a million dollars,” Kirk said.
Clayton recently told him he had received a full-ride scholarship to a four-year college for engineering
“He’s always been good at math,” Kirk said, describing Clayton as, “super funny, super cool, always joking, always laughing.”
“He was an outsider,” Kirk said. “He never really tried to become one of us.”
But he said Katz wasn’t an outcast, either.
“This wasn’t because people were yelling at him or he was getting talked about,” he said of the shooting.
Kirk spent Sunday checking on other members of what he calls his Madden family.
“It’s been a constant search all day to make sure everybody is alive and doing well,” he said.
Wesley “Joe Rice” Gittens, the player sitting next to Clayton at the time of the shooting, survived, Kirk said.
He discovered that a player he knows as Larry was shot three times but that “he’s doing fine.”
Taylor “SpotMePlzzz” Robertson was killed. Kirk described him as a family guy who loved helping people and often posted photos of himself with his 2-year-old daughter.
Kirk, a 24-year-old accounting student, was supposed to attend the Jacksonville tournament but canceled at the last minute because his ex-wife decided to visit with their two young children.