Five people were killed and two others were injured when a gunman opened fire inside the Capital Gazette building in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, just outside of Annapolis, police said. It was a “targeted attack” on the newspaper, according to police. The shooter entered the building with a shotgun, used smoke grenades and he looked for his victims while walking through the office, police said.
The suspect has been identified as 38-year-old Jarrod Ramos, who had previously sued The Capital newspaper for defamation and frequently posted about the news organization and its staffers on Twitter. You can read more about Ramos here.
“He was prepared to shoot people. His intent was to cause harm,” Acting Anne Arundel County Police Chief William Krampf said at a press conference. He said it will take time to determine the specific motive and to complete the investigation. Threats were made to the Capital Gazette over social media prior to the shooting, but police are working to determine if they were sent by the suspect, Krampf said. Krampf said it is not believed he was targeting anyone specifically at the newspaper, just the newsroom itself.
The suspect was wearing a black T-shirt, olive pants and had a ponytail and long hair, NBC News reports. He is being interrogated and search warrants were being served at his home, authorities said. The shooting is believed to have happened in the Capital Gazette’s newsroom about 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.
“Active Shooter: 888 Bestgate Road #Annapolis. Media staging area is 839 Bestgate Road,” Lt. Ryan Frashure of the Anne Arundel County Police Department tweeted.
Police said they do not believe there are any other shooters in the building, which is secure. A motive for the shooting is not yet known. Police confirmed the suspect is a white male and was using a “long gun.” There was no gunfire exchanged between the officers and the suspect. A county executive told CNN that the suspect was found hiding under a desk and had put his gun down away from him. Sources had told multiple news organizations that the suspect had altered his fingerprints to conceal his identity and that the suspect was identified through facial recognition software. But Krampf said he was not aware of those details.
The five victims have been identified as Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith and John McNamara. Hiassen was a veteran columnist and editor. McNamara was also an editor and staff writer. Winters was a community news reporter. Fischman was an editorial page editor. Smith was a sales assistant.
The victims who were injured suffered “superficial” injuries and will be OK. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help the victims and Capital Gazette staff. Capital reporter Chase Cook tweeted, “I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”
This is a developing story and will be updated. Here is what we know so far:
1. An Intern Tweeted ‘Active Shooter … Please Help Us’
An intern at the newspaper, Anthony Messenger, tweeted, “Active shooter 888 Bestgate please help us,” about 2:40 p.m. on Thursday. Messenger is OK, according to a co-worker. He also said John McNamara, a writer for the Capital Gazette and editor of two weekly newspapers, was shot.
Reporter Phil Davis confirmed to the Baltimore Sun, which owns the Capital Gazette, that there was a shooting and multiple people were shot. The newspaper building is in Anne Arundel County.
Davis, who covers courts and crimes for the news organization, tweeted, “A single shooter shot multiple people at my office, some of whom are dead.”
Davis added, “Gunman shot through the glass door to the office and opened fire on multiple employees. Can’t say much more and don’t want to declare anyone dead, but it’s bad. There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload.”
Davis told the Baltimore Sun it was “like a war zone,” and the situation would be something that will be “hard to describe for awhile.” He added, “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.”
He told the newspaper the shooter stopped on his own and police then arrived and surrounded him. “I don’t know why. I don’t know why he stopped,” Davis said.
Joshua McKerrow, a photojournalist for both the Baltimore Sun and the Capital Gazette, tweeted, “Massive police response to shooting in my newsroom in Annapolis,” along with photos from the scene:
“This is going to be a long, long, long investigation,” Anne Arundel Police Lieutenant Ryan Frashure told reporters.
Frashure said officers were at the scene very quickly, in about 60 to 90 seconds of the first 911 call. He said they engaged the suspect and took him into custody. “At this point he’s the only suspect, we have one suspect,” Frashure said.
2. A Shotgun Was Reportedly Used & the Suspect Is in Custody
WJLA-TV reporter Brad Bell is reporting that the suspect used a shotgun. A suspect is in custody, he reported. The suspect was described as a white male with a ponytail in police radio transmissions:
You can listen to additional scanner audio here.
“We’re doing the best we can,” Anne Arundel County Police Lieutenant Ryan Frashure told reporters. “We’re doing everything we can to get people out safe and we’re trying to minimize the casualties.” He said they wanted to make sure people are safe.
“And again, there’s a lot of factors that got into this, so there’s a lot of secondary things we have to look into also,” Frashure said at the press briefing. “Whether there are other shooters, there might be more than one, bombs, anything like that, so there’s a variety of things we have to go through.”
According to police scanner transmissions, police were searching for explosives. CNN reports that the suspect was carrying items that were made to look like explosive devices, such as grenades, but were not actual explosives. CBS has said the devices were possibly smoke grenades or flash bangs.
3. Police Swarmed the Building & People Could Be Seen Leaving With Their Hands Up
Several police vehicles could be seen heading to the shooting, according to news reports and witnesses. People could be seen exiting the building with their hands up.
Roads in the area were shut down and people have been told to avoid the area.
ATF tweeted that it headed to the scene.
“BREAKING: ATF Baltimore is responding to a shooting incident at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md,” the federal agency tweeted. Local and state police were already at the scene and investigating. The FBI was also at the scene, but said local police are leading the investigation.
4. The Building Is Home to 2 of the Oldest Newspapers in the Country, Along With Other Offices
According to its website, the Capital Gazette building is home to several publications, including The Capital newspaper, the Maryland Gazette, the Bowie Blade-News, the Crofton-West County Gazette and Capital Style Magazine, along with CapitalGazette.com. There are about 20 staffers in news, and a few others in advertising, reporter Danielle Ohl tweeted.
The Capital and The Gazette are sister papers. The Capital, a daily newspaper, has been published since 1884, while The Gazette, published twice weekly, is one of the oldest newspapers in America, founded in 1727. The papers are both owned by the Baltimore Sun Media Group in 2014, which is owned by Tronc, formerly known as Tribune Publishing. Tronc said in a statement, We are deeply saddened today by the attack in our Capital Gazette newsroom. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We are focused now on providing our employees and their families with support during this tragic time. We commend the police and first responders for their quick response.”
Other businesses, including a medical office, are also located in the building. Police said there were about 170 people inside the building when the shooting occurred.
Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch, who has represented Annapolis since 1987, told the Baltimore Sun that The Capital newspaper is “the voice of the community,” and said even as the staff size shrunk, “they knew the pulse of the community and had a lot of influence on what took place.” He added, “This is a shocker. Over the years, a lot of these people become friends. They do their job, you do your job, and you respect them for it. A lot of good writers have come out of there.”
CapitalGazette.com editor Jimmy DeButts tweeted, “Devastated & heartbroken. Numb. Please stop asking for information/interviews. I’m in no position to speak, just know @capgaznews reporters & editors give all they have every day. There are no 40 hour weeks, no big paydays – just a passion for telling stories from our (community). We keep doing more with less. We find ways to cover high school sports, breaking news, tax hikes, school budgets & local entertainment. We are there in times of tragedy. We do our best to share the stories of people, those who make our community better. Please understand, we do all this to serve our community. We try to expose corruption. We fight to get access to public records & bring to light the inner workings of government despite major hurdles put in our way. The reporters & editors put their all into finding the truth. That is our mission. Will always be.”
5. The Baltimore Sun Building Was Swept by Police as a Precaution
Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton tweeted that the Baltimore Police Department made a precautionary sweep of the Sun’s office building after the Capital Gazette incident. It is not clear if there was a threat made to the Sun newspaper or if the sweep was done because of the paper’s connection to the Capital Gazette.
The NYPD is moving personnel to major news outlets headquartered in New York City as a precaution, ABC News reports.
A Fox 5 DC anchor broke into tears while talking about the shooting and said the TV station’s newsroom had just gone through active shooter training yesterday:
The Society of Professional Journalists tweeted, “SPJ is deeply saddened by the reports from Annapolis, Maryland, that a shooter entered the Annapolis Capital Gazette building and shot several people. Our hearts go out to the victims and their family, friends and colleagues.”
Chris Hurst, a former news anchor who is now a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, tweeted, “The threat to journalists is real and became deadly once more today in Annapolis. My condolences to everyone impacted at the @capgaznews newsroom. I left my newsroom to create policies to prevent more workplace violence. The scourge must end.” Hurst’s girlfriend, Alison Parker, was shot and killed on live TV while working as a reporter for WDBJ-TV in 2015. Photographer Adam Ward was also killed.
Officials have started to respond to the shooting.
Governor Larry Hogan tweeted, “Absolutely devastated to learn of this tragedy in Annapolis. I am in contact with County Executive Steve Schuh, and @MDSP is on the scene assisting @AACOPD. Please, heed all warnings and stay away from the area. Praying for those at the scene and for our community.”
U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, of Maryland, tweeted, “My heart is with the families, friends, and loved ones of the victims as we learn more about this terrible situation. We must unite to end the violence.”
Rep. Anthony Brown, who represents Maryland’s 4th District, tweeted, “I’m closely monitoring situation at @capgaznews in Annapolis. @ATFHQ Baltimore is responding to the shooting along with state and local law enforcement. Will share more information as I receive updates.”
According to the White House press pool, President Donald Trump has been briefed on the shooting. A White House spokesperson told CBS News, “our thoughts and prayers are with all that are affected.”
Trump later tweeted, “Prior to departing Wisconsin, I was briefed on the shooting at Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Thank you to all of the First Responders who are currently on the scene.”