In Annapolis, Maryland, five people were left dead and two others injured after a gunman armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades stormed the newsroom of the Capital Gazette newspaper on the afternoon of June 28th. The suspect, Jarrod W. Ramos, 38, was taken into custody at the scene and was charged on Friday morning with five counts of first-degree murder. Police say Ramos refused to cooperate with the authorities or provide his name and was identified using facial recognition technology.
The attack was covered in real time by some of the journalists who found themselves under siege. A message saying “please help us” with the address of the office building was tweeted from the account of Anthony Messenger, a summer intern. A crime reporter, Phil Davis, described how the gunman “shot through the glass door to the office” before opening fire on employees. “There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” Mr. Davis wrote.
Davis said during a phone interview that the gunman was silent as he stalked the newsroom, stopping once to reload as journalists huddled in fear under their desks. Once the police arrived, staff members put their hands in the air and shouted, “We’re not him,” Mr. Davis recalled. The gunman was hiding under a desk as the police moved in. He did not exchange gunfire with officers when he was taken in.
Police say Ramos had a long history of conflict with the Capital Gazette, which produces a number of local newspapers along Maryland’s shore, suing journalists there for defamation and waging a social media campaign against them. “This was a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette,” said William Krampf, acting chief of the Anne Arundel County Police Department. “This person was prepared to shoot people. His intent was to cause harm.”
In July 2012, Mr. Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit in Maryland’s Prince George’s County Circuit Court against Capital Gazette Communications, its then editor and publisher and a former reporter, claiming that his reputation had been damaged after the newspaper published a story in 2011 about Mr. Ramos’s guilty plea in a harassment case. Three months later, he filed a fuller complaint alleging invasion of privacy. The lawsuit was later dismissed by Judge Maureen M. Lamasney after a March 2013 hearing, in which Mr. Ramos, who represented himself, was unable to identify anything that was falsely reported in the July 2011 article nor could he cite examples about how he had been harmed. According to the appellate decision that later affirmed the dismissal, Ramos showed no understanding of defamation law.
During a press conference, Acting Deputy Chief William Krampf told reportrs that the suspect had made violent threats against the paper and the paper had been threatened the day of the shooting. Krampf could not specifically confirm what the threats entailed or if the shooter targeted anyone specifically but did say the shooting was a targeted attack. Those killed in the shooting were identified as longtime editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, columnist and editor John McNamara, sales assistant Rebecca Smith and editor and community reporter Wendi Winters.