BY CBC

Maryland man charged with 5 counts of murder in newspaper shooting

Five first-degree murder charges were filed Friday against a man accused of targeting Maryland's capital newspaper, shooting his way into the newsroom and killing four journalists and a staffer before police arrested him.

Jarrod Warren Ramos was swiftly arrested, interrogated and jailed pending a 10:30 a.m. hearing in Annapolis. No defence attorney was listed in online court records, but one note suggests he could be represented by a public defender. Another classifies him as "recalcitrant." Investigators said earlier that he was unco-operative.

Acting police Chief William Krampf of Anne Arundel County said the gunman "looked for his victims" Thursday in the newsroom of The Capital Gazette in Annapolis. "This person was prepared today to come in, this person was prepared to shoot people," Krampf said.

Ramos, 38, has a well-documented history of harassing the paper's journalists that began years ago after the Gazette reported on his criminal conviction in a harassment case. 

The attack began with a shotgun blast that shattered the glass entrance of the open newsroom. Journalists crawled under desks and sought other hiding places, describing agonizing minutes of terror as they heard the man's footsteps and the repeated blasts of the weapons. Police said he also was armed with smoke grenades.

Search for motive

It's unclear what immediate motivation the gunman may have had. Investigators were reviewing his social media postings and searching his apartment in Laurel, Md., searching for clues.

"The shooter has not been very forthcoming, so we don't have any information yet on motive," Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh said.

Those killed included Rob Hiaasen, 59, assistant managing editor and younger 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."

The other staff members killed in the attack 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.

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.

'Nothing more terrifying'

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.

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 was breathing really loud and was trying not to, but I couldn't be quiet," she said. "I'm going to need more than 'thoughts and prayers."'

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."

Gunman hid under desk

The gunman tried to hide under a desk after the attack until police arrived, according to court documents.

A statement of probable cause obtained Friday by The Associated Press also said surveillance video captured Thursday's events at the newspaper. It said Jarrod Ramos entered the office around 2:30 p.m. ET

Despite the deadly attack, staff managed to put out a newspaper on Friday.

Photographs that were widely shared on social media showed newspaper staffers working on laptops in a parking garage to produce the next day's edition, while they waited to learn the fate of colleagues after the shooting.

The morning's edition featured in-depth coverage of the shooting and obituaries of the five people killed. Each victim's photo appeared below the masthead.

And below the main shooting story were the staples of a community newspaper: a glance at the day's weather and a teaser to a national story inside: "Trump, Putin: The two leaders will meet in Finland in July."

The newspaper's editors left the editorial page blank with a note saying that they were speechless.

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."

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also weighed in.

"Strongly condemn the evil act of senseless violence in Annapolis, MD. A violent attack on innocent journalists doing their job is an attack on every American. Our prayers are with the victims and their friends and families," she wrote on Twitter.

Hours later, investigators remained on the cordoned-off office building early Friday as they sought clues to the gunman's motives. There was also police activity early Friday at a Laurel apartment complex where the suspect is believed to have resided.

"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.

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 City of Annapolis announced a vigil for the victims Friday night at a public square near the Capitol, followed by a march to a dock for a service by the water. The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland announced that the city's houses of worship also planned a prayer vigil at 7 p.m. Friday at a mall across the street from the shooting site.

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.

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 City of Annapolis announced a vigil for the victims Friday night at a public square near the Capitol, followed by a march to a dock for a service by the water. The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland announced that the city's houses of worship also planned a prayer vigil at 7 p.m. Friday at a mall across the street from the shooting site.

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.