Five first-degree murder charges were filed Friday against a man who allegedly targeted Maryland’s capital newspaper, shooting his way into the newsroom and killing four journalists and a staffer before police arrested him.
Online records do not list a lawyer for Jarrod Ramos, who is scheduled for a bail hearing for 10:30 a.m. in Annapolis.
Authorities say Ramos opened fire inside the newspaper office Thursday, killing five and injuring two. He had a long, acrimonious history with the newspaper, including a lawsuit and years of harassment of its journalists.
The attack on The Capital Gazette came amid months of verbal and online attacks on the “fake news media” from politicians including President Donald Trump, although the alleged shooter’s apparent grudge with the newspaper predates Trump’s political career.
Acting police Chief William Krampf of Anne Arundel County said the gunman “looked for his victims.”
“This person was prepared today to come in, this person was prepared to shoot people.”
Journalists crawled under desks and sought other hiding places in what they described as minutes of terror as they heard the gunman’s footsteps and the repeated blasts of the shotgun as he moved about the newsroom.
Those killed included Rob Hiaasen, 59, assistant managing editor and brother of novelist Carl Hiaasen, who said he was “devastated and heartsick” at losing his brother, “one of the most gentle and funny people I’ve ever known.”
Also slain were:
- Gerald Fischman, editorial page editor.
- Wendi Winters, a features writer.
- John McNamara, a reporter.
- Rebecca Smith, a sales assistant.
The newspaper said two other employees had non-life-threatening injuries and were released from a hospital.
Phil Davis, a courts and crime reporter, tweeted that the gunman shot out the glass door to the office and fired into the newsroom, sending people scrambling under desks.
“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” he wrote in a tweet.
Tomorrow this Capital page will return to its steady purpose of offering readers informed opinion about the world around them. But today, we are speechless. <a href=”https://t.co/5HzKN2IW7Q”>pic.twitter.com/5HzKN2IW7Q</a>
In a later interview appearing on the paper’s online site, Davis likened the newspaper office to a “war zone.”
“I’m a police reporter. I write about this stuff — not necessarily to this extent, but shootings and death — all the time,” he said. “But as much as I’m going to try to articulate how traumatizing it is to be hiding under your desk, you don’t know until you’re there and you feel helpless.”
Reporter Selene San Felice told CNN she was at her desk but ran after hearing shots, only to find a back door locked. She then watched as a colleague was shot, and said she didn’t glimpse the gunman.
“I heard footsteps a couple of times. I was breathing really loud and was trying not to, but I couldn’t be quiet.”
The reporter recalled a June 2016 mass shooting attack on Orlando’s gay nightclub Pulse and how terrified people crouching inside had texted loved ones as dozens were killed. San Felice said, “And there I was sitting under a desk, texting my parents and telling them I loved them.”
Litigation involving accused, paper
Survivors said the shooting — though it seemed agonizingly long — lasted mere minutes. Police said their response was swift.
Lt. Ryan Frashure said officers arrived within about 60 seconds and took the gunman into custody without an exchange of gunfire. About 170 people were then evacuated from the building, which houses other offices, many leaving with their hands up as police and other emergency vehicles arrived.
At the White House, spokesperson Lindsay Walters said: “There is no room for violence, and we stick by that. Violence is never tolerated in any form, no matter whom it is against.”
Hours later, investigators remained on the cordoned-off site early Friday as they sought clues to the gunman’s motives.
“The shooter has not been very forthcoming, so we don’t have any information yet on motive,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh said.
In 2012, Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper, alleging he was harmed by an article about his conviction in a criminal harassment case a year earlier. The suit was dismissed by a judge, who wrote that Ramos hadn’t shown “anything that was published about you is, in fact, false.” An Appeals Court later upheld the dismissal.
Following police activity late Thursday around a Laurel apartment complex where the suspect is believed to have resided, officers by 2 a.m. could be seen clearing the scene.
Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said the community was grieving the attack on its paper.
“These are the guys that come to city council meetings, have to listen to boring politicians and sit there. They don’t make a lot of money. It’s just immoral that their lives should be in danger.”
The newspaper is part of Capital Gazette Communications, which also publishes the Maryland Gazette and CapitalGazette.com. It is owned by the Baltimore Sun.
The Associated Press Media Editors promised to help Capital Gazette journalists as they recover. An APME statement called on newspapers nationwide to help the paper continue its community coverage and fight for freedom of the press.
It prompted New York City police to immediately tighten security at news organizations in the nation’s media capital.