Resident survived being shot at gaming event in Florida
Tony Montagnino watched as a tense game unfolded between two video game competitors going head-to-head playing “Madden 19” when the sound of fireworks popping filled the room.
Suddenly, he felt pain surge through his lower back, realizing he had been shot.
“I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that’s hot.’ Then I actually turned around and saw what was happening,” he said. “I just went into survival mode.”
Montagnino, a Round Rock resident for eight years and a husband and father of two, is among survivors in the Aug. 26 mass shooting at the Madden tournament that ended with two people dead and 10 wounded in Jacksonville, Fla.
He said at first he thought someone was playing a prank until he saw the shooter — later identified by police as David Katz — holding a gun. When he saw flashes from the gun, Montagnino said everything became real for him.
Livestreamed video from the tour- nament shows Montagnino asking, “What did he shoot me with?” as shots rang out.
After the first round of shots, Montagnino said he dove to the ground to take cover behind a table.
Montagnino said maybe 10 minutes went by before it was over, but time stood still as he lay on the ground waiting for help.
“I just remember being scared,” he said. “I thought I was never going to see my wife or kids again. It’s just a really scary feeling that you’re going to be gone and never going to be able to tell people you love them one last time.”
Montagnino said he considers himself lucky to be alive and fully recuperating.
After the news of a mass shooting spread across the nation, his wife and sister took a flight out to Florida to meet him. They returned to Round Rock the following day.
While he is back home safe, the scars of what happened go deeper than the bullet wound on his back. He said he has struggled to process what happened.
“I’m getting better physically and getting around moving, standing up,” he said. “But mentally I’m 100 times worse and trying to get help for that and trying to get past everything.” Sleeping is the most challenging part. “You’re just laying there and all you have time to do is replay what happened, and you can still hear the sounds and see the visuals,”’ he said.
For now, he tries to stay busy and spend time with family and friends to keep his mind off the tragedy.
Montagnino said he had met Katz once at a gaming tournament in California but didn’t know him well enough to speculate on a motive.
“He came off as socially awkward and kept to himself, but a lot of people are like that,” he said.
Since 2003, Montagnino has played in gaming tournaments. While things often get competitive, he said he considers the people he competes with as brothers.
“I don’t want people to kind of generalize how gaming communities are and how it is just off one bad egg,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for years, and I’m always excited to go to these events and see these guys. This isn’t a normal thing. It never is.”
He said he is torn on whether he will return to compete anytime soon.
“I’m scared, and I want to be safe,” he said. “But in the same breath, I don’t want to let this guy’s actions dictate what I love to do and influence my life and a hobby I really enjoy doing.”
Round Rock resident Tony Montagnino takes a selfie before heading into the Madden NFL tournament in Jacksonville (Fla.) on Aug. 26. Montagnino was shot at the tournament.