Annapolis, MD – The heroic actions of Capital Gazette journalist Wendi Winters likely saved the lives of many of her coworkers during the targeted attack inside the paper’s newsroom on June 28.
Armed with a 12-guage pump-action shotgun and smoke grenades, 38-year-old Jarrod Ramos barged into the Capital Gazette building and shot his way into the office, The Baltimore Sun reported.
While employees scrambled for cover and hid beneath their desks, Ramos walked around the newsroom, shooting his victims.
“I’ll tell you this, the fellow was there to kill as many people as he could,” Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare said during the agency’s press conference in the wake of the attack.
Just weeks before the gunman’s ruthless rampage, 20-year veteran journalist Wendi Winters took an active shooter training at her church, the Capital Gazette reported.
During the training, she learned that her last option during an attack would be to fight, and that’s exactly what she did.
Her coworker, Janel Cooley, said she was under her desk when she saw Winters rise up with a recycling bin and a trash can in her hands.
According to Cooley, Winters yelled at Ramos to stop and charged towards him.
Photojournalist Paul Gillespie said he heard Winters holler a defiant “No!” at the gunman from his hiding spot a few feet away.
“She may have distracted him enough that he forgot about me because I definitely stood up and was looking at the door,” Cooley told the Capital Gazette. “I’m sure he wasn’t expecting… anyone to charge him.”
Five employees – including Winters – were killed during Ramos’ rampage, and two more were wounded. Her coworkers agreed that Winters’ heroic self-sacrifice likely saved their lives.
“It sounds like her,” Winters’ son, Phoenix Geimer told the Capital Gazette. “She’s got four kids – she’s not going to take it from anyone.”
Anne Arundel County Police Corporal Jim Shiloh conducted the training Winters attended at the Unitarian Universalist church, and said that trainees there were taught that creating a distraction could help provide others with an opportunity to escape.
“I think that Wendi doing what she did served as enough of a distraction that maybe he didn’t see us,” reporter Rachael Pacella told the Capital Gazette. “I absolutely think that Wendi Winters saved my life.”
Police have said the gunman had a personal “vendetta” against the newspaper and that he conducted a “targeted attack” on the Capital Gazette’s newsroom.
Ann Arundel County police officials said that Ramos had a “long running feud” with the Capital Gazette, and that he had made threats on social media “indicating violence” prior to the attack, the New York Post reported.
“You just f–ked with the wrong person,” Ramos tweeted to the Capital Gazette in 2013, according to the New York Post. “You have awakened a sleeping giant f–ker.”
The feud may have begun in July of 2011, after the newspaper published an article about a criminal harassment charge that was pending against Ramos, The Baltimore Sun reported.
According to the article, Ramos had attempted to initiate a relationship with a woman he knew in high school by sending her a Facebook friend request.
During the “yearlong nightmare” that ensued, Ramos allegedly told the woman to kill herself and called her vulgar names. Then he tried to get her fired from her job by emailing the bank where she worked.
Ramos eventually pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor offense and was placed on probation.
He sued the Capital Gazette for defamation in 2012, according to the Capital Gazette.
The news outlet’s former editor and publisher, Thomas Marquardt, said that Ramos harassed the paper and its employees “for years.”
“I was seriously concerned he would threaten us with physical violence,” Marquardt recalled. “I even told my wife, ‘We have to be concerned. This guy could really hurt us.’”
Marquardt said he reported Ramos’ threats to police in 2013 and that he considered filing a restraining order him, but ultimately did not.
The newspaper ultimately opted to not pursue criminal charges either, because they feared it would further enrage Ramos, Chief Altomare said.
“I remember telling our attorneys, ‘This is a guy who is going to come in and shoot us,’” Marquardt told The Baltimore Sun.