Annapolis, MD – The gunman who killed five people and injured at least two more in a “targeted attack” inside the Capital Gazette newsroom on Thursday had “some sort of vendetta” against the newspaper and had previously filed a defamation lawsuit against the news outlet, police said.
Armed with a 12-guage pump-action shotgun and smoke grenades, 38-year-old Jarrod Ramos barged into the Capital Gazette building on June 28 and shot his way into the newsroom, The Baltimore Sun reported.
“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 on Friday morning.
Capital Gazette crime reporter Phil Davis, who was one of about 170 people inside the building at the time of the attack, said that he and his coworkers scrambled for cover as the man opened fire.
“Gunman shot through the glass door to the office and opened fire on multiple employees,” Davis wrote in a tweet after the attack. “Can’t say much more and don’t want to declare anyone dead, but it’s bad.”
Journalists recounted the sound of Ramos’ footsteps as he walked around the newsroom, shooting his victims, WTTG reported.
“I kept thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to die. I can’t believe this,’” photographer Paul Gillespie told The Baltimore Sun.
Davis said he and many of his coworkers were still hiding beneath their desks as officers surrounded the suspect and the shooting ceased.
“I don’t know why. I don’t know why he stopped,” he told The Baltimore Sun at the time.
According to court documents, Ramos attempted to hide under a desk until police located him inside the office, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Chief Altomare noted that “fight or flight” likely guided the shooter’s decision to “hide” from police.
“I don’t know why, but flight won for the suspect,” he said.
Ramos refused to cooperate with police after he was captured, and was successfully identified using facial recognition software.
Chief Altomare praised law enforcement’s prompt response to the active shooter situation and said they were on scene within two minutes of having received the initial call.
The officers “without question saved lives,” the chief said.
During a Thursday night press conference, 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 on Friday.
“I remember telling our attorneys, ‘This is a guy who is going to come in and shoot us,’” Marquardt told The Baltimore Sun.
After the court dismissed Ramos’ lawsuit in 2013, he appealed to the higher court, the Capital Gazette reported.
In 2015, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling.
“A lawyer would almost certainly have told him not to proceed with this case,” the court noted, according to the Capital Gazette. “It reveals a fundamental failure to understand what defamation law is and, more particularly, what defamation law is not.”
“F–k you, leave me alone,” Ramos tweeted one day after the ruling, according to The Baltimore Sun.
His aunt, Vielka Ramos, said she was shocked to learn that her nephew was the suspected shooter.
“He was very intelligent. He would try to communicate with people but he was a loner,” she recalled. “He was distant from the family. He just wasn’t close to anybody.”
Anne Arundel County police released the identities of the shooting victims on Thursday night.
Assistant Managing Editor Rob Hiaasen, 59, had just celebrated his 33rd wedding anniversary, the Capital Gazette reported. He also leaves behind three children.
“He loves words, he loves humor,” Hiassen’s wife said. “He loved journalism, he loved helping those young writers at the Gazette.”
His brother, famous author Carl Hiassen, said that Hiassen “believed profoundly in the craft and mission of the public’s right to know the news,” according to his Facebook post.
Editorial Page Editor Gerald Fischman, 61, had become the “conscience and voice” of the Capital Gazette, where he had written “scathing, insightful and always exacting editorials” since 1992, the newspaper reported.
“He was a great writer. He was a really smart guy, so smart that he tried out for Jeopardy twice,” Marquardt told the Capital Gazette. “But he couldn’t get accepted because they didn’t like his personality. That was Gerald’s spin, anyway.”
Features Reporter Wendi Winters, a 65-year-old mother of four, enjoyed writing about local news and issues, former Capital Gazette community news editor Leslie Hunt told the paper.
She joined the newsroom full-time in 2013, following a career in fashion and public relations and a decade as a freelance writer.
“My mother was a wonderful woman and a fantastic reporter,” her daughter, Winters Geimer, said. “Her life was a gift to everyone who knew her and the world will not be the same without her. We are grieving and trying to make sure all of us can be together to celebrate the life of our mother.”
Sports Reporter John McNamara, 56, had worked for the Capital Gazette for over 24 years, according to the paper. He was known for his flexibility and concise writing style, as well as for his passion for all things sport-related.
McNamara met his wife, Andrea Chamblee, at a bar after he reported on a football game.
“Our biggest argument was about who was lucky enough to have the other,” his wife, Andrea Chamblee, told the Capital Gazette. “He was devoted to his friends and family. He was devoted to his craft and he was devoted to me.”
Sales Assistant Rebecca Smith, 34, was a recent hire at the Capital Gazette, but she was already known as someone who made sure that the office ran smoothly, Advertising Director Mary Padden told the newspaper.
Smith was engaged to be married and was proud to be a “bonus mom” to her fiancé’s young daughter, the Capital Gazette reported.
“She was the absolute most beautiful person,” Smith’s friend, Kelli Peleska, told the news outlet. “The biggest heart and a great loss to this world.”
Two other Capital Gazette staff members were injured during the attack, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Rachael Pacella and Janel Cooley were treated for their injuries and have been released from the hospital.
As investigators dissected the massacre scene on Thursday evening, the slain employees’ devastated colleagues tried to handle the shocking news the only way they knew how – by making their murdered coworkers’ stories heard.
“I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow,” Capital Gazette reporter Chase Cook said in a tweet.
Several hours later, the Capital Gazette echoed Cook’s determined declaration.
“Yes, we’re putting out a damn paper tomorrow,” the newspaper tweeted.
A fundraising account established to help the shooting victims and their families had raised almost $125,000 as of noon on Friday.
Ramos faces five counts of first degree murder, WTTG reported.
His initial court hearing, which was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Friday, did not occur for reasons that were not immediately known, Chief Altomare said.