Res­i­dent sur­vived be­ing shot at gam­ing event in Florida

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Ariana Gar­cia

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.

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