A 38-year-old man has been identified as the suspect who opened fire at the Capital Gazette office in Maryland, killing at least five people in a “targeted attack” on the news organization, police said. He had previously filed a defamation lawsuit against The Capital newspaper, which was dismissed in 2013. The dismissal was upheld in 2015 by a Maryland appellate court.
Jarrod Ramos has been charged with five counts of murder. The suspect is still not cooperating, according to police. He is being held without bail after a court appearance, at which he appeared by video and did not speak. Ramos is being represented by a public defender who has not commented.
Police were executing search warrants at his apartment in Laurel, Maryland, Thursday night. Ramos is a former federal employee and Maryland native who graduated from Arundel High School. Ramos had targeted editors and employees of The Capital newspaper on social media and in court filings for years, turning his anger toward them after the paper published an article about his vicious harassment of a woman he went to high school with.
“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 the suspect was targeting anyone specifically at the newspaper, just the newsroom itself. Police Chief Timothy Altomare said Friday morning the suspect “was there to kill as many” people as possible. At least one victim was shot while trying to escape, he said, but could not exit because the suspect barricaded the exit door.
The shooting happened about 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 28, at the newsroom just outside of Annapolis in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Officials say the suspect did not exchange gunfire with police before he was taken into custody. He was found hiding somewhere in the building, underneath a desk. According to authorities, he has not been “forthcoming” with interrogators. A person who was in front of a court commissioner on an unrelated case early Friday morning said she saw Ramos “spazzing out” and directing racial slurs at black officers, WBAL-TV reports.
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. You can read more about the victims here.
Two people were wounded, but suffered “superficial” injuries: Rachael Pacella, a reporter, and Janet Cooley, a newspaper employee. Both have been released from the hospital. 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.”
Here’s what you need to know about the suspect and the shooting:
1. The Gunman Shot Through a Glass Door & Opened Fire on People Inside the Newsroom, Witnesses Say
The shooter entered the building with a shotgun, used smoke grenades and he looked for his victims while walking through the office, police said. Authorities said Jarrod Ramos bought the shotgun used in the shooting about a year ago. Further details about where he bought it were not immediately available. He had a previous misdemeanor conviction for harassment, but no felony record that would prevent him from being able to legally buy a weapon.
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. McNamara was killed.
Reporter Phil 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.”
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:
The suspect was described as a white male with a ponytail in police radio transmissions:
You can listen to additional scanner audio here.
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. 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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.”
2. A Woman Who Ramos Harassed & Threatened for Several Months Says She Told Police ‘He Will Be Your Next Mass Shooter’
Court records show Jarrod Warren Ramos was convicted of harassment in January 2011 in a case that stemmed from a March 2, 2010, incident. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, which was suspended, and 18 months supervised probation, according to court records. Ramos was also ordered to continue therapy and refrain from contact with the harassment victim and her family. After his sentence, Eric Hartley, a former The Capital staff writer, wrote an article in The Capital with the headline “Jarrod wants to be your friend.”
The article described the accusations against Ramos, including that he had sent a Facebook request out of the blue to a woman and thanked her for being the only person ever to say hello or be nice to him in school. The woman said she didn’t remember Ramos, so he sent pictures. When she Googled him, she found they had gone to Anne Arundel High School together. She wrote back to him because he was going through problems and she told him he should get help at a counseling center.
The woman said Ramos then sent months of emails in which he asked for help, called her vulgar names and told her to kill himself. He also emailed her company and tried to get her fired.
“She stopped writing back and told him to stop, but he continued. When she blocked him from seeing her Facebook page, he found things she wrote on other people’s pages and taunted her with it, attaching screenshots of the postings to some of his emails,” Hartley wrote. “She called police, and for months he stopped. But then he started again, nastier than ever.
All this without having seen her in person since high school. They never met until they came to court a couple of months ago.”
According to the news article from 2011, “Ramos, a tall, thin man with long hair he wears in a ponytail, did not speak at the hearing and did not return a call for comment left with his attorney. He has a degree in computer engineering and has worked for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for six years, (his attorney) said. He had no previous criminal record.”
The woman who had been harassed told WBAL-TV after the Capital Gazette shooting, “he’s a f*cking nut job.”
The woman told WBAL reporter Jayne Miller that Ramos became “fixated” on her for some reason. She had to move three times, including to another state because she was so terrified of him. She also changed her name and started sleeping with a gun. She told Miller that she warned a police official years ago, “he will be your next mass shooter.”
3. The Paper’s Former Publisher Says He Thought Ramos ‘Was Crazy Enough to Come In & Blow Us All Away’
In September 2015, the second-highest court in Maryland upheld a 2013 ruling in favor of Capital-Gazette Communications dismissing the defamation lawsuit Jarrod Ramos filed in 2012 against The Capital, its then-staff writer Eric Hartley and the paper’s then-publisher, Thomas Marquardt, the newspaper reported at the time. Hartley is now an editor at the Virginian Pilot.
Ramos sued the paper, Hartley and Marquardt over the column Hartley wrote in 2011 about Ramos’ guilty plea to criminal harassment, according to The Capital.
Thomas Marquardt, who retired as The Capital’s publisher in 2012 and was named in Ramos’ defamation lawsuit, told the Los Angeles Times that Ramos, “waged a one-person attack on anything he could muster in court against the Capital. I said during that time, ‘This guy is crazy enough to come in and blow us all away.'”
Marquardt told the Times, “The theory back then was, ‘Let’s not infuriate him more than I have to. … The more you agitate this guy, the worse it’s gonna get.’ If it’s him, I’m gonna feel … responsible for this. I pray it’s not him.”
Prince George’s Circuit Court Judge Maureen M. Lamasney dismissed the lawsuit in 2013, saying Hartley’s article was based on public records and that Ramos had no evidence it was inaccurate. You can read the opinion from the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland here:
Ramos represented himself during the case. Records show Ramos has also filed lawsuits against an Anne Arundel County judge and the woman he was convicted of harassing, along with the newspaper.
“A lawyer would almost certainly have told him not to proceed with this case,” the court wrote in the opinion, according to The Capital. “It reveals a fundamental failure to understand what defamation law is and, more particularly, what defamation law is not.”
In the lawsuit, Ramos claimed he deserved equal sympathy with his victim in the harassment case. The judge wrote in her decision, “The appellant was charged with a criminal act. The appellant perpetrated a criminal act. The appellant plead guilty to having perpetrated a criminal act. The appellant was punished for his criminal act. He is not entitled to equal sympathy with his victim and may not blithely dismiss her as a ‘bipolar drunkard.’ He does not appear to have learned his lesson.”
4. On His Website He Said the Newspaper’s Publisher Used The Capital as ‘His Shotgun’ & He Said He’d Like to See Him & a Reporter ‘Cease Breathing’
A now-suspended Twitter account, @EricHartleyFrnd, bearing the name of Jarrod Ramos of Laurel, Maryland, has been used for several years to talk about the lawsuit against the Capital Gazette and one of its former reporters, Eric Hartley, along with other rambling posts about conspiracy theories. The account’s image is a photo of Hartley. On Hartley’s head there is an image from a Japanese manga fantasy series called, Berserk. The image is called the “Brand of Sacrifice, according to a Wiki set up about “Berserk.” The Wiki explains it, “marks those for a sacrificial ceremony in which an apostle or God Hand is created. The sacrificed, usually someone close and dear to the summoner, is then ritualistically murdered, with the deceased’s life force used to complete the summoner’s transition into either an apostle or a member of the God Hand.”
His tweets also included a one saying he’d like to see the Capitol Gazette closed down, but it would “be nicer” to see Hartley and Marquardt “cease breathing.”
Ramos wrote in his Twitter bio, “Dear reader: I created this page to defend myself. Now I’m suing the shit out of half of AA County and making corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities.”
The account was inactive from January 21, 2016, until Thursday, when Ramos tweeted, “Fuck you, leave me alone @judgemoylanfrnd.” The Judge Moylan account has not tweeted, but appears to have also been created by Ramos. The profile of that account states, “This is a war. There are no grandstands on the battlefield. One does not die royalty, a nobleman, or a commoner. You die as the loser.”
A third account, under the name Judge James Lombardi, @judgelingJJL, also appears to be owned by Ramos. “Not James J. Lombardi, the most disgraceful #judgeling I’ve seen. He wants to censor me in absentia, but he can eat my shit. Very truly yours, Jarrod W. Ramos,” that account states.
Ramos created the @EricHartleyFrnd account in 2011, with a link to a Capital article about his conviction. He then tweeted at Hartley, “Now that I’m back under your research microscope, do me a favor and help get my ranking as high as yours,” with a link to a Google search for his name.
Ramos also had a website where he published documents from his defamation case and emails with the Capital-Gazette, where he accused them of harassment and defamation.
“Mr. Marquardt views news subjects as targets, and The Capital is his shotgun. He fills with glee when he strikes down another asshole. … Some targets are easy and some targets unclear. ‘Shoot it anyway,’ he says, ‘I want it dead!’ He hates it when civility and decency get in the way of his fun. He does it for the victims, even when ‘She wants to be alone.’ He’d tell you his ‘personal animosity’ has nothing to do with it, though he doesn’t even know what that is. So don’t be a killjoy,” Ramos wrote on the website.
In an email published on his website, Ramos wrote, “If you’re here now, you probably just Googled my name. If this story caught you off guard, there’s something you should know. While I did commit the offense of harassment, the victim’s version of events is a gross misrepresentation of what actually occurred. Mr. Hartley has here further distorted the truth. Upon reconsideration this afternoon, Judge Jonas D. Legum has overturned my conviction despite continued opposition by the victim. At hearing she showed her true colors and the court was unpersuaded by her attempted manipulation. If you know me, ask me. I certainly did a bad thing, but don’t shun me for how it was portrayed by this newspaper.”
It is not clear from court records if the conviction was overturned.
He added a message to Hartley, “This is your written notice the conditions I provided to you are hereby withdrawn. You have chosen to ignore my letter, but your response was not invisible. The ground you tried digging was solid, as my integrity. Say the same to me and you’ve lied once more. You can expect my lawsuit in July. Get your people ready, because I will be.”
He also accused The Capital of censoring him by removing a comment from the newspaper’s website in 2011, “You people have no explanation for the removal of my comment? Even though it appears you have acted with personal spite, ill will, and a desire to see me come to harm? Even though it appears to be a conscious effort to conceal or ignore anything contrary to the words of a vengeful source of highly questionable credibility? Are you guys truly the champions of free speech, accountability, and organizational transparency, or do those things only really matter when they suit your purposes to make people look bad and generate revenue?”
Police said Friday authorities had previously investigated threats against The Capital newspaper and its staffers. Annapolis Police Chief Scott Baker told NBC News the newspaper didn’t want to follow through on a formal investigation, “because they were afraid it would exacerbate the situation. There were verbal threats toward staffers.
5. Ramos Tweeted in 2014 ‘Mass Shootings Cannot Happen Anywhere’ With a Reference to the Newspaper’s Old Office & Also Tweeted About the 2015 Killings of 2 TV Journalists
In 2014, Ramos tweeted at then-Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, “Mass shootings cannot happen anywhere, @ChiefKevinDavis. For example: 2000 Capital Drive. No one left there to shoot.” 2000 Capital Drive in Annapolis is the former home of the Capital-Gazette Communications offices.
Ramos is single and does not have children. He has a degree in computer science, according to WBAL-TV. Police said they found evidence at Ramos’ apartment in Laurel after a search. Ramos did not carry identification on him during the attack and was refusing to communicate with officers. Police were not able to identify him through finger prints, though police say it was not because he obliterated his fingertips, as previously reported by numerous media outlets. Ramos was eventually identified through a facial recognition program that compared his photo to a database of previous mugshots.
On his website, he titled a section, “Open Season.”
“That’s the life at 2000 Capital Drive, from one generation to the next. They’re so sure their own shit doesn’t stink, they feel their sewage bill should be paid by the people of Annapolis. When their guilty consciences catch up to them, the people pay for that too. They call themselves an important watchdog, but who watches the watchers?” he wrote. “The authority that permits their power also stands poised to punish its abuse. Even kings must answer to God, and a modern day Inquisition is at hand. The potential judgement is no less severe; the carnage differs only in literal terms. As this search for Truth commences, a crusader they could not kill approaches.”
He also tweeted in August 2015 that the suspect in the attack on two WDBJ-TV reporters was a “fake journalist” with a fake name.
He also tweeted several times about the Charlie Hebdo shooting in France, in which journalists were killed in a terror attack. You can see an archive of his tweets here:
John Frenaye, who founded a local news site called Eye on Annapolis, told NBC News that Ramos harassed and trolled him online frequently between 2013 to 2015, repeatedly messaging him about his complaints with the Capital Gazette. “Any time it’s that kind of troll, I just kind of ignore that,” Frenaye told NBC. “I remember looking at it and thinking, ‘Do I have to worry about it?’ and thinking, ‘No, his bug is with the Capital and Eric.’ He had nicknames for them, too” — like “Slob” instead of Bob. It’s all sort of flooding back. I think he thought he had an audience, but I don’t remember even reporting on him at all.”
In September 2015, Ramos criticized a columnist for the Capital Gazette for calling President Donald Trump, then a candidate, “unqualified.” He wrote, “referring to @realDonaldTrump as ‘unqualified’ @capgaznews could end badly (again).” He linked to a Wall Street Journal article about Trump filing a $500 million lawsuit against Univision.