Capital Gazette attack suspect ‘blocked exit during rampage’
Jarrod Ramos is charged with multiple murders in Maryland newsroom assault
A Maryland man charged with multiple murders over an attack in a newsroom in Annapolis was denied bail on Friday, a day after he allegedly rampaged through the newsroom with a shotgun and killed five people in one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in US history.
A judge ordered Jarrod Ramos (38), from Laurel, 40km west of Annapolis, held without bond on five counts of first-degree murder, during a hearing at Anne Arundel County criminal court.
Ramos, who appeared by video link from a detention facility, did not speak during the hearing.
Ramos had a longstanding grudge against the newspaper group whose office he is accused of attacking, and unsuccessfully sued it for defamation in 2012 over an article that reported how he harassed a former high school classmate, court records showed.
He is accused of entering the Capital Gazette office on Thursday afternoon and opening fire through a glass door, hunting for victims and spraying the newsroom with gunfire as reporters hid under their desks and begged for help on social media, police and witnesses said.
Ramos made an initial appearance before a court commissioner at about 1.30am local time, when he was advised of his rights and was asked if he wanted a public defender. He responded that he refused to co-operate, court officials said.
Prosecutors said he barricaded a back door to stop people from fleeing.
“The fellow was there to kill as many people as he could,” Anne Arundel County police chief Timothy Altomare told a news conference.
Mr Altomare also told reporters that Ramos was not co-operating with investigators either, and that he was identified using facial-recognition technology.
Mr Altomare said evidence found at the suspect’s home showed he had planned the attack, and that the pump-action 12 gauge shotgun used in the attack was legally purchased.
He said Ramos was looked into in 2013 over “online threatening comments” directed at the Capital Gazette, but the group’s management decided not to pursue criminal charges.
Ramos will face either a preliminary court hearing or grand jury indictment within the next 30 days.
Rob Hiaasen (59), Wendi Winters (65), Rebecca Smith (34), Gerald Fischman (61), and John McNamara were shot and killed in the attack.
All were journalists except for Smith, who was a sales assistant, said William Krampf, acting chief of the Anne Arundel County police department.
Despite the attack on its newsroom, The Capital newspaper, part of The Gazette group, published an edition on Friday with photographs of each of the victims and the headline “5 shot dead at The Capital” on its front page.
The newspaper’s editors left the editorial page blank, with a note saying that they were speechless.
Ramos brought a defamation lawsuit in 2012 against Eric Hartley, a former staff writer and columnist with Capital Gazette, and Thomas Marquardt, then its editor and publisher, a court filing showed. Neither Hartley nor Marquardt are still employed by the paper.
An article by Mr Hartley had contended that Ramos had harassed a woman on Facebook and that Ramos had pleaded guilty to criminal harassment, according to a legal document.
The court hearing the defamation suit had agreed the article was accurate and based on public records, the document showed.
In 2015 Maryland’s second-highest court upheld the ruling, rejecting Ramos’s suit.
Ramos tweeted at the time that he had set up a Twitter account to defend himself, and wrote in his biographical note that he was suing people in Anne Arundel County and “making corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities”.
According to a WBAL-TV reporter who said she spoke with the woman featured in the article, Ramos had harassed her and became “fixated” with her for no apparent reason, causing her to move three times, change her name, and sleep with a gun.
‘Like a war zone’
Phil Davis, a Capital Gazette crime reporter, recounted how he was hiding under his desk along with other newspaper employees when the shooter stopped firing, the Capital Gazette reported on its website.
The newsroom looked “like a war zone,” he told the Baltimore Sun. “I don’t know why he stopped.”
“As much as I’m going to try to articulate how traumatising it is to be hiding under your desk, you don’t know until you’re there and you feel helpless,” Mr Davis said.
Authorities responded to the scene within a minute of the shooting, and Ramos was arrested while also hiding under a desk, with the shotgun on the floor nearby, police said.
Annapolis mayor Gavin Buckley said he was proud of the journalists who had “soldiered on”.
“These guys, they don’t make a lot of money. They do journalism because they love what they do. And they got a newspaper out today,” Mr Buckley told Fox News.
A vigil for the victims was planned for 8.00pm EDT on Friday. Maryland governor Larry Hogan ordered state flags to be lowered to half-staff.
After the shooting, police in Baltimore and New York City deployed extra officers to the offices of major media outlets as a precaution.
Capital Gazette runs several newspapers out of its Annapolis office. These include one of the oldest newspapers in the US, The Gazette, which traces its origins back to 1727.
The newspapers published by the company, part of the Tronc Inc media group, have focused on local news in the shadows of two much larger competitors, the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun.