Time Line: David Katz—Florida Shooting & More Failed Psychiatric Programs

On Sunday, 26 August 2018, 24-year-old David Katz shot and tragically killed two and wounded 12 others before taking his own life at an e-sports tournament in Jacksonville, Florida.[1]

1993 – 2009:  Police records showed there had been 26 calls for service to the police from the Katz family home in Columbia, Maryland, without specifics reported, other than domestic disputes and “mental illness”; (David Katz was not born until 1994.)[2]

2004, October:  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered black box warning for SSRI antidepressants for anyone under the age of 18 because of the risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide. The FDA had been hauled before Congress over its complicity in concealing evidence showing failed test results with emergent suicide-related behavior linked to SSRI antidepressants.[3] (Katz’s mother, Elizabeth, is a Ph.D. and toxicologist who works for the FDA).[4]

2006-07:  David Katz was reported to be undergoing psychiatric treatment, at least from the age of 12 (though likely earlier) according to court records pertaining to his parents’ divorce, that ended in 2007.[5] As of 2006, he had been prescribed a number of psychiatric drugs, including antipsychotics and antidepressants, and had seen “a succession of psychiatrists.”[6]

Katz’s parents fought over using drugs, including Abilify (aripiprazole) and Prozac (fluoxetine), to treat their son.[7] His father said his son was placed on two antidepressants, which he said at the time “pose significant and unknown risks to the children.”[8] Another report said he’d been prescribed the antidepressant Lexapro (escitalopram), despite the FDA black box warning.[9]

The father, Richard Katz, a NASA engineer, said his ex-wife had “an obsession with using mental health professionals and in particular psychiatric drugs to perform the work that parents should naturally do.” He described one incident in which his son was handcuffed by police after locking himself in his mother’s car in an attempt to avoid going to a mental health appointment with her.[10]

A court filing stated that a therapist said Katz had experienced a “psychiatric crisis.”[11] The mother took him to see a number of psychiatrists as well as a social worker and art therapist, according to a 2006 letter from the father’s attorney.[12]

ABC News reports that Katz had also been prescribed the antipsychotic Risperdal (risperidone).[13] The adverse effects of antipsychotics can include aggressive behavior from drug-induced akathisia (inability to sit still). The person may experience violent, aggressive impulses or feel suicidal, although they often can’t pinpoint the source of their distress, despite that akathisia can feel unbearable.[14] Akathisia may begin within several days after treatment but usually increases with duration of treatment, occurring in up to 50% of cases within one month and 90% of cases within three months.[15]

2007:  Court records pertaining to the parents’ divorce name two doctors, although they do not detail what, if any, treatment or drugs they may have prescribed: Dr. Bruce Shapiro (Maryland License number D19112) has his primary practice at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, at which he is currently the Vice President, Training.[16] Shapiro also has practicing privileges at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Saint Agnes Healthcare.[17] He is a professor in pediatrics and Chair in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.[18]

2007, March:  Court records show that Richard Katz wanted to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Michael Potash, which was granted on 26 April 2007. Records show that in 2009, Potash surrendered his medical license in “lieu of defending the pending board charges under the grounds of immoral and unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine.”[19] Dr. Potash died in 2015, but online records show that in 2010, Sarah Eliott sued the psychiatrist over alleged medical malpractice involving the alleged misuse of the psychiatrist-patient relationship to obtain a sexual relationship, including in 2008. According to a court filing, “During the course of this relationship, Dr. Potash prescribed a cocktail of prescription medications [including Xanax] to Ms. Eliott, leaving her in a confused and vulnerable state.”[20] Ms. Eliott filed a complaint with the Maryland State Board of Physicians that charged Dr. Potash on October 8, 2009. On November 12, 2009, he permanently surrendered his license.[21]

2007, May:  Elizabeth Katz put David’s clothes in suitcases on at least two occasions and asked him to leave, including once on Mother’s Day in 2007. In court filings, the father asserted that David “routinely expresses his anger” toward her. He claimed that when David was staying with him, the boy showed no signs of behavioral problems and was “generally lively, communicative” and “playful.”[22]

2007:  Media reports say Katz spent 12 days at Sheppard Pratt psychiatric hospital in late 2007. Court documents say a psychiatrist at that time administered antidepressants.

Dr. Steven Sharfstein, former president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and on the Board of Directors of the American Psychiatric Foundation (APF), was President and CEO of Sheppard Pratt Health System at the time of Katz’s admission. He started as vice president and medical director in 1986, and then took over as health system president and CEO in 1992.[23]  He signed up six pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly & Co., Merck and Janssen Research Foundation, to test their products at Sheppard Pratt, according to a 2002 report.[24]  Dr. Sharfstein retired from the position on July 1, 2016.

Katz later spent about 13 days at Potomac Ridge behavioral health, a mental health services facility in Rockville, Maryland. [25] In 2006, the facility was under investigation for sexual abuse of patients, including a teenager.[26]

Undated (circa 2007):  Katz was enrolled in at least two other 10-day acute adolescent care facilities during a particularly troubled period and received “home and hospital” services from the Howard County Maryland School system.[27]

2008, 24 Jan.-Apr.:  A court record from the parents’ divorce proceedings showed schooling in part occurring at Sheppard Pratt at a cost of $1,650 to Richard Katz (with the amount reduced by the court). [28]

2008, 22 Feb.-3 Sept.:  A court record from the parents’ divorce proceedings showed there was a request for an independent review for the need for a “Utah-Based ‘Wilderness Therapy.’”

2008, Feb–May:  Katz attended the Redcliff Ascent Wilderness Treatment Program for troubled teens when he was 15 years old, according to court filings.[29] A court record dated 8 April 2008 showed he’d been at the facility for several months and that the mother had enrolled her son “in health care facilities without first securing permission of the Court” and denying the boy’s father visitation rights. The father’s costs for this “care,” was reduced by the court to $5,000 and “not his proportionate share of 60.9% of that expense previously ordered.”[30]

The program’s clinical director must approve students that are on psychotropic drugs when admitted.[31]

Such programs have been criticized with stories of teens terrified and trying to escape, including from Redcliff.[32] In 2007, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) compiled a report on the dangers of wilderness and other teen facilities.[33] For example, during 2005 alone, 33 states reported 1,619 staff members involved in incidents of abuse in such residential programs. They found “thousands of allegations of abuse, some of which involved death, at residential treatment programs across the country between 1990 and 2007.”[34]

A 2014 article reported there had been 86 deaths in residential and wilderness camps and, “Many states don’t require background checks for staff, and there have been multiple investigations into sexual abuse and arrests for sexual assault at teen residential and wilderness programs.”[35]

2011, 25 Aug.:  The parents’ custody battle continued and Katz was ordered to another “mental health evaluation.”[36]

2011:  Katz graduated from Hammond High School in Columbia. He went on to attend the University of Maryland, though he did not earn a degree.[37] Ti’Andre Montana, who graduated a year ahead of Katz, told CNN: “He stayed to himself…he didn’t talk much,” Montana said. “He was a good guy. I couldn’t image him doing such [a] thing.”[38]

2012, 12 Apr.:  Per a court document closed 3 September 2014, the father paid for treatment at Howard County General Hospital, a member of Johns Hopkins Medicine, which has a psychiatric and pediatric psychiatric unit.[39]

2014:  Katz started to attend classes at the University of Maryland, according to university spokeswoman Katie Lawson. He enrolled in September 2014 and was not registered for classes in the fall of 2018. He lived off campus, and majored in environmental science and technology.[40]

2018:  He was living in a condo in Baltimore, Maryland, reportedly owned by his father.[41]

2018, 26 Aug.:  Katz was found dead having taken his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside the Madden NFL 19 tournament at the Jacksonville Landing.[42] The parents were cooperating with police authorities.

Yet another shooting in Florida had been committed by someone who had been in psychiatric hands, with years of failed treatments with tragic results for his victims, their families and the community.


[1] Jose Pagliery, Curt Devine, and Drew Griffin, “Jacksonville shooter had history of mental illness and police visits to family home,” CNN Investigates, 28 Aug. 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/28/us/jacksonville-madden-shooter-katz-mental-health-invs/index.html.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “AHRP Press Statement – FDA & SSRI Suicide Risk 9/14/04,” Alliance For Human Research Protection (AHRP)https://ahrp.org/ahrp-press-statement-fda-ssri-suicide-risk-91404/.

[4] Scott Broom, “Madden shooter’s Maryland background includes family, emotional health troubles,” WUSA9, 27 Aug 2018, https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/local/maryland/madden-shooters-maryland-background-includes-family-emotional-health-troubles/65-588068467; https://fdazilla.com/fda-employee/contact/elizabeth-katz_301-796-2495.

[5] Op. cit., Jose Pagliery, Curt Devine, and Drew Griffin.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Op. cit., Scott Broom.

[8] Curt Devine, Jose Pagliery, Drew Griffin, Joe Sterling and Susannah Cullinane, “What we know about Jacksonville shooting suspect David Katz,” CNN, 28 Aug. 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/27/us/jacksonville-madden-tournament-suspect/index.html.

[9] Op. cit., Jose Pagliery, Curt Devine, and Drew Griffin.

[10] “Jacksonville eSports shooter David Katz was twice hospitalized for mental illness, court records show,” globalnews.ca, 27 Aug. 2018, http://www.newscaf.com/world/jacksonville-esports-shooter-david-katz-was-twice-hospitalized-for_976159.html.

[11] Op. cit., Jose Pagliery, Curt Devine, and Drew Griffin.

[12] “Madden Shooter David Katz Had a History of Mental Illness,” IGNhttp://www.ign.com/boards/threads/madden-shooter-david-katz-had-a-history-of-mental-illness.455177763/.

[13] Bill Hutchinson Marissa Parra, “Suspect in Madden 19 tournament shooting targeted gamers: Sheriff,” ABCNews, 27 Aug. 2018, https://abcnews.go.com/US/suspect-madden-19-tournament-shooting-targeted-gamers-sheriff/story?id=57423449.

[14] “Akathisia: 15 Things to Know about This Horrible Condition,” MedPro, 24 Jul. 2017, https://www.medprodisposal.com/akathisia-15-things-to-know-about-this-horrible-condition/.

[15] “Movement Disorders Induced by Antipsychotic Drugs: Implications of the CATIE Schizophrenia Trial,” Neurol Clin. Feb. 2011, 29(1): 127–viii, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018852/.

[16] “Bruce K. Shapiro, M.D.,” Kennedy Krieger Institute, https://www.kennedykrieger.org/patient-care/faculty-staff/bruce-shapiro.

[17] Maryland Board of Physicians Practitioner Profile System, https://www.mbp.state.md.us/bpqapp/PProfile.asp.

[18] “Bruce K. Shapiro” profile, John Hopkins Medicine, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/profiles/results/directory/profile/0800057/bruce-shapiro; Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Residency Program – Message from the Program Director, Kennedy Krieger Institute, https://www.kennedykrieger.org/professional-training/training-disciplines/neurodevelopmental-disabilities.

[19] Surrender of License to Practice Medicine, License Number 009463, MBP Case Number: 2008-0717, Maryland Board of Physicians, https://www.mbp.state.md.us/bpqapp/Orders/D0946312.169.PDF; Katz vs Katz, Case Number 13-C-05-064176, Howard County Maryland Circuit Court, 2005,

[20] Frederick N. Rasmussen, “Dr. Michael D. Potash was a retired Mount Vernon psychiatrist.,” The Baltimore Sun, 4 Sep 2015, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/obituaries/bs-md-ob-michael-potash-20150811-story.html; Elliot vs Potash, Statement of Claim, Healthcare Alternative Dispute Resolution Office of Maryland, 2010, https://center.mdmalpracticeattorney.com/sarah-elliot-v-dr-michael-potash/.

[21] Ibid., Elliot vs Potash.

[22] “Jacksonville shooting suspect David Katz had history of mental illness,” Trib Live, 27 Aug. 2018, https://triblive.com/usworld/world/14017115-74/jacksonville-shooting-suspect-david-katz-had-history-of-mental-illness.

[23] “Steven S. Sharfstein, M.D., Announces Retirement After 25 Years as Sheppard Pratt Health System President and CEO,” Sheppard Pratt Health, 8 Jan. 2015, https://www.sheppardpratt.org/about/news-and-press-room/press-releases/steven-s-sharfstein-md-announces-retirement-after-25-years-s.

[24] Karen Buckelew, “Sheppard Pratt Health launches clinical trials program for psychiatric disease,” The Daily Record, 19 Apr. 2002.

[25] “Jacksonville eSports shooter David Katz was twice hospitalized for mental illness, court records show,” Canada Live News, 28 Aug. 2018, http://canadianews.org/world/2018/08/28/404414-jacksonville-esports-shooter-david-katz-was-twice-hospitalized-for-mental-illness-court-records-show.html.

[26] Ernesto Londoño, “Disabled Teen Was Raped at Hospital, Mother Says,” Washington Post, 22 Nov. 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/21/AR2006112101535.html.

[27] Op. cit., Scott Broom.

[28] Op. cit., Katz vs Katz, Case Number 13-C-05-064176.

[29] Op. cit., Scott Broom.

[30] Op. cit., Katz vs Katz, Case Number 13-C-05-064176.

[31] “Admissions,” RedCliff Ascent wilderness therapy program, https://www.redcliffascent.com/admissions/.

[32] Sulome Anderson, “When Wilderness Boot Camps Take Tough Love Too Far,” The Atlantic, 12 AUG. 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/08/when-wilderness-boot-camps-take-tough-love-too-far/375582/.

[33] Ibid.

[34] “RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT PROGRAMS: Concerns Regarding Abuse and Death in Certain Programs For Troubled Youth,” GAO, 10 Oct. 2007, https://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08146t.pdf

[35] Op. cit., Sulome Anderson.

[36] Op. cit., Katz vs Katz, Case Number 13-C-05-064176.

[37] Op. cit., Trib Live, 27 Aug. 2018.

[38] Op. cit., Jose Pagliery, Curt Devine, and Drew Griffin.

[39] Op. cit., Katz vs Katz, Case Number 13-C-05-064176.

[40] Op. cit., Jose Pagliery, Curt Devine, and Drew Griffin.

[41] “David Katz: Madden Shooter Tied To Baltimore Condo,” Heavy.com, 27 Aug. 2018, https://heavy.com/news/2018/08/david-katz-madden-shooter-baltimore/.

[42] Garrett Pelican, “Police ID ‘Madden 19’ tournament shooter as gamer David Katz
Katz, 24,” News4JAX, 26 Aug. 2018, https://www.news4jax.com/news/police-id-madden-19-tournament-shooter-as-gamer-david-katz.