More than 1,000 attend vigil for murdered journalists in Annapolis
Mourner says many residents have ‘one degree of separation’ from at least one victim
Mourners stand in silence during a vigil in response to a shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom on Friday in Annapolis. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP
More than 1,000 people have marched through Maryland’s capital to remember the five people killed in a newspaper office shooting.
Hoisting #AnnapolisStrong signs, friends, residents and former co-workers took part in a strikingly silent candlelit march on Friday night to honour the employees of the Capital Gazette newspaper.
Melissa Wilson, who came to the vigil with her husband, Benjamin, their nine-year-old daughter and five-year-old son, said many Annapolis residents have “one degree of separation” from at least one victim.
“The people who made our newspaper are people we felt we knew, even if we had never met them before,” Benjamin Wilson said.
Melissa Wilson’s employer has offices in the same building as the newspaper and her co-workers were there when a gunman methodically blasted his way through the newsroom with a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun.
Jarrod W Ramos has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder.
Authorities said he has a longtime grudge against the paper, suing it in 2012 after it ran an article about him pleading guilty to harassing a woman. He also sent a barrage of menacing tweets that led to an investigation five years ago.
A detective concluded he was no threat, and the paper did not want to press charges for fear of “putting a stick in a beehive”.
But residents focused on the victims: assistant managing editor Rob Hiaasen, editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, special projects editor Wendi Winters, reporter John McNamara and sales assistant Rebecca Smith.
David Marsters, who worked at the newspaper from 2008 to 2016 and knew four of the employees, said the outpouring of grief over their deaths is a testament to the special bond the newspaper has with its readers.
“They were great people who did amazing work in the community,” he said.
He took part in the march that ended at a waterfront harbour called City Dock.
“For it to be so still and so somber, especially on a Friday night, it’s startling,” Kit O’Neill said, describing Annapolis as “a small town with a big heart.”
“And the Gazette is its mighty newspaper,” she added.
Earlier, dozens of mourners gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis to pay tribute to congregation member Wendi Winters and the other victims.
The Rev Fred Muir’s voice cracked as he described the mounting dread he felt on Thursday as it became clear Winters did not survive. He described her as a beloved “pillar of her community”.
“Everybody has a Wendi Winters story. She was a force to be reckoned with,” he said.
In the attack, police said Ramos barricaded the rear exit of the office to prevent anyone from escaping, gunning down one victim trying to slip out the back.
His public defenders had no comment after he was denied bail in a brief court appearance.–PA