He watched in horror as a gun’s red laser dot appeared on his friend Elijah “Trueboy” Clayton’s chest during a livestream of Sunday’s pro gaming tournament in Florida.
Then the camera cut away and he heard the shots.
“I actually threw up. I was sick to my stomach. I didn’t want to believe it was true. I still don’t want to believe someone shot up a Madden tournament,” gamer Damon “Adjust” Kirk told the Daily News in a phone interview Monday.
A longtime player of the NFL football video game, Kirk almost traveled to the tournament himself, but a family commitment kept him in the Detroit area, so he caught the livestream instead, he said.
“Trueboy scored a touchdown. He was smiling. Then you saw the red aim from the pistol pointed at his heart,” Kirk recalled. “I heard a clap noise, like someone slammed a table. Then more shots. You could tell it was gunshots. They were spread out, like (the shooter) was walking around, finding people he wanted to take out.”
Clayton, 22, and fellow pro player Taylor “SpotMePlzzz” Robertson, 27, were killed in the hail of bullets.
Police later identified the gunman as David Katz, a fellow gamer who had been eliminated from the high-stakes Jacksonville tournament. Katz, 24, turned the gun on himself after the bloodshed and also died.
“He was a really, really good friend of mine,” Kirk said of Clayton. “He had the biggest smile. He smiled and laughed all day. He was smiling right before he was shot.”
Kirk said Clayton, a high school football player who graduated from Calabasas High School outside Los Angeles in 2014, was a favorite to win the top prize.
“No one scored on him the whole tournament. I had every reason to believe he was going to be the best player this year,” Kirk said of Clayton.
“He was the most consistent, most unique player. He was flashy with his runs. He would make you look silly on the field with how he would juke you. It was always so much fun to watch him play.”
Kirk, 24, said he and Clayton previously worked together with the shooter, writing Madden tips for the website The Gamers Lab.
“Trueboy never had anything against (Katz). If Katz wanted to be friends, Trueboy would have signed up,” he said. “Trueboy was super cool. He was never yelling at you or arguing with you.”
Kirk said the tight-knit Madden community was also mourning the loss of Robertson, a husband and father from Ballard, W.V.
“He was a friend – one of the few parents, like myself, who was competing. I felt a real connection with him,” Kirk said. “I can’t imagine his daughter hearing she lost a parent at a Madden tournament.”
Clayton’s high school announced Monday that it would hold a moment of silence at its upcoming Friday night varsity game.
“Our entire community is shocked and saddened by this loss,” the high school said in a statement.
“He was always good at games and he felt like he could go somewhere with it,” former teammate Jojo McIntosh, who played football with Clayton at Chaminade College Preparatory, before Clayton transferred to Calabasas, told the Associated Press. “I know he was at the top of what he was doing.”
Kirk said he’s been in touch with other players at the Florida tournament and learned a fellow player named Larry Legend nearly lost his life too.
“Larry got shot three times, but he’s going to make it. His entire crew is staying with him at the hospital until he’s discharged,” Kirk said.
Legend said in a short Twitter post overnight that he was “devastated” by the tragedy.
“Still in shock. Woke up crying knowing today’s surgery will determine if I’ll ever be able to play video games again,” Larry Legend said in a follow-up post Monday morning.
“God was with these guys today,” his mom said on Twitter Sunday as she posted a photo of Legend in his hospital bed.
A GoFundMe set up by fellow player Justin “Swizzy” Saline for the families of Clayton and Robertson raised more than $6,000 as of early Monday afternoon.