An­napo­lis ral­lies, tries to re­cover

March hon­ors the five vic­tims of Thurs­day’s deadly news­room at­tack

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN and BRIAN WITTE

AN­NAPO­LIS (AP) — Qui­etly clutch­ing can­dles or hoist­ing #An­napolisStrong signs, more than 1,000 peo­ple streamed through Mar yland’s cap­i­tal, re­mem­ber­ing five peo­ple slain in a news­pa­per of­fice not just as gate­keep­ers of the news but as a cru­cial piece of their tight-knit com­mu­nity.

Friends, for­mer co-work­ers and peo­ple who felt con­nected to the vic­tims took part in a strik­ingly silent can­dlelit march Fri­day night to honor the em­ploy­ees of The Cap­i­tal news­pa­per who were killed a day ear­lier in one of the dead­li­est at­tacks on jour­nal­ists in U.S. his­tory.

Melissa Wil­son, who came to the vigil with her hus­band, Ben­jamin, their 9-year-old daugh­ter and 5-yearold 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

“The peo­ple who made our news­pa­per are peo­ple we felt we knew, even if we had never met them be­fore.” Ben­jamin Wil­son An­napo­lis marcher

news­room with a 12-gauge pumpaction shot­gun.

Jar­rod W. Ramos has been charged with five counts of first­de­gree mur­der. Au­thor­i­ties say 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 didn’t 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 slain 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 har­bor called “City Dock,” where laugh­ter and the noise of play­ing chil­dren usu­ally car­ries across the restau­rants, bars and shops. But not on Fri­day.

“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 Thurs­day as it be­came clear Win­ters didn’t 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.

Muir said the shock and grief have re­ver­ber­ated across An­napo­lis, a city he de­scribed as a small town where many peo­ple knew some­body who worked at the news­pa­per.

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. He was placed on sui­cide watch.

Ramos had tar­geted staffers re­peat­edly with an­gry, pro­fan­ity-laced tweets, launch­ing so many on­line at­tacks that then-pub­lisher Tom Mar­quardt called po­lice in 2013.

A de­tec­tive in­ves­ti­gated, hold­ing a con­fer­ence call with an at­tor­ney for the pub­lish­ing com­pany, a for­mer cor­re­spon­dent and the pa­per’s pub­lisher, Anne Arun­del County Po­lice Chief Ti­mothy Al­tomare said.

A po­lice re­port said the at­tor­ney pro­duced a trove of tweets in which Ramos “makes men­tion of blood in the wa­ter, jour­nal­ist hell, hit man, open sea­son, glad there won’t be mur­der­ous ram­page, mur­der ca­reer.”

The de­tec­tive, Michael Pra­ley, said in the re­port that he “did not be­lieve that Mr. Ramos was a threat to em­ploy­ees” at the pa­per, not­ing Ramos hadn’t tried to en­ter the build­ing and hadn’t sent “di­rect, threat­en­ing cor­re­spon­dence.”

“As of this writ­ing the Cap­i­tal will not pur­sue any charges,” Pra­ley wrote. “It was de­scribed as putting a stick in a bee­hive which the Cap­i­tal News­pa­per rep­re­sen­ta­tives do not wish to do.”

Mar­quardt, the for­mer pub­lisher, said he talked with the news­pa­per’s at­tor­neys about seek­ing a re­strain­ing or­der but didn’t be­cause he and oth­ers thought it could pro­voke Ramos to do some­thing worse.

Later, in 2015, Ramos tweeted that he would like to see the pa­per stop pub­lish­ing, but “it would be nicer” to see two of its jour­nal­ists “cease breath­ing.”

Then Ramos “went silent” for more than two years, Mar­quardt said.

“This led us to be­lieve that he had moved on, but for what­ever rea­son, he de­cided to res­ur­rect his is­sue with The Cap­i­tal yes­ter­day,” the for­mer pub­lisher said. “We don’t know why.”

The po­lice chief said new posts went up just be­fore the killings but au­thor­i­ties didn’t know about them un­til later.

Lit­tle has been re­leased about Ramos, other than that he is sin­gle, has no chil­dren and lives in an apart­ment in Lau­rel, Md. He was em­ployed by an IT con­trac­tor for the U.S. La­bor De­part­ment’s Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics from 2007 to 2014, a de­part­ment spokesman said.

The ram­page be­gan with a shot­gun blast that shat­tered the glass en­trance to the open news­room. Ramos care­fully planned the at­tack, us­ing “a tac­ti­cal ap­proach in hunt­ing down and shoot­ing the innocent peo­ple,” pros­e­cu­tor Wes Adams said.

Jour­nal­ists crawled un­der desks, de­scrib­ing ag­o­niz­ing min­utes of ter­ror as they heard the gun­man’s foot­steps and the re­peated blasts.

“I was curled up, try­ing not to breathe, try­ing not to make a sound, and he shot peo­ple all around me,” pho­tog­ra­pher Paul Gille­spie, who dove be­neath a desk, told The Bal­ti­more Sun, owner of the An­napo­lis pa­per.

Gille­spie said he heard a col­league scream, “No!” A gun­shot blast fol­lowed. He heard an­other co-worker’s voice, then an­other shot.

The chief said Ramos’ shot­gun was legally pur­chased about a year ago de­spite his guilty plea in the ha­rass­ment case. He also car­ried smoke grenades, au­thor­i­ties said.

AP PHOTO/JOSE LUIS MAGANA

Carol Gei­th­ner, left, and Yasemin Jami­son gather for a can­dle­light vigil across the street from where five jour­nal­ists were slain in their news­room in An­napo­lis, Fri­day, June 29.

AP PHOTO/PA­TRICK SE­MAN­SKY

Peo­ple hug as they gather for a vigil in re­sponse to a shoot­ing in the Cap­i­tal Gazette news­room, Fri­day, June 29, 2018, in An­napo­lis. Prose­cu­tors say Jar­rod W. Ramos opened fire Thurs­day in the news­room.

AP PHOTO/PA­TRICK SE­MAN­SKY

Tan­ner Piekarski, left, and Kylie Myles hold signs dur­ing a vigil in re­sponse to a shoot­ing at The Cap­i­tal Gazette news­pa­per of­fice, Fri­day, June 29, in An­napo­lis.

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