Police: Gunman kills five at Maryland newspaper
Suspect targeted journalists, officials say; reporter describes a ‘war zone’
ANNAPOLIS, MD. » A man with a vendetta against an Annapolis, Maryland, newspaper fired a long gun through the newsroom’s glass doors and at its employees, killing five and injuring two others Thursday in a targeted shooting, according to police.
The identities of all of the victims are unknown, but the attack likely is the deadliest involving journalists in the United States in decades.
Local police said the Capital Gazette was targeted in the Maryland incident that prompted heightened security in newsrooms around the country.
Police, who arrived at the shooting scene within a minute of the reported gunfire, apprehended a single gunman found hiding under a desk in the newsroom, according to the county’s executive.
According to lawenforcement sources, a man with a long-running feud with the Capital Gazette newspaper is being held as a suspect in the shooting.
Police and federal agents gathered late Thursday outside the address of 38-yearold Jarrod W. Ramos. Rich McLaughlin, chief of the Laurel Police Department, said his officers were there as part of the investigation into the shooting, and other sources identified Ramos as the suspect.
In 2012, Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit against the paper and a columnist over a July 2011 story that covered a criminal harassment case against him.
He brought the suit against the columnist, Eric Hartley, naming Capital Gazette Communications and Thomas Marquardt, the paper’s former editor and publisher, as defendants.
A Twitter page in Ramos’ name on Thursday featured Hartley’s picture as its avatar, and a banner image included photographs of Marquardt and the Capital’s former owner Philip Merrill.
The page’s bio read: “Dear reader: I created this page to defend myself. Now I’m suing the s--- out of half of AA County andmaking corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities.”
The suspect was reportedly not cooperating with police investigators Thursday. He carried canisters with smoke grenades that he used inside the building, police said.
“This person was prepared today to come in, this person was prepared to shoot people,” acting Anne Arundel County Police Chief William Krampf said. “His intent was to cause harm.”
Among those killed was the veteran columnist, editor and journalism teacher Rob Hiaasen.
Hiaasen, 59, the brother of best-selling author and journalist Carl Hiaasen, had been a feature writer at the Baltimore Sun for 15 years before moving to the Capital in 2010 as an assistant editor.
“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” Gazette reporter Phil Davis said on Twitter.
Davis described the scene as a “war zone” and a situation that would be “hard to describe for a while,” in a subsequent news story posted to the daily newspaper’s website within 45minutes of the shooting.
“It appears to be the act of a lone shooter,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh said. “It does not appear to be a particularly well-planned operation.”
The Capital Gazette, Annapolis’ daily paper, is widely read in Maryland’s state capital and in surrounding Anne Arundel County, where it is headquartered.
The newspaper touts itself as one of the oldest publishers in the country, with roots going back to the Maryland Gazette in 1727.
“Devastated & heartbroken. Numb,” Gazette editor Jimmy DeButts said on Twitter. “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 communty.”
The shooting unfolded at around 3 p.m. in a brown five- story office building just outside downtown Annapolis.
In an interview with a local ABC affiliate, aman who works in the building said he heard an “incredibly loud bang” and looked out his office to see aman surrounded by shattered glass holding a gun at the front door of the Capital Gazette.
“This guy was holding what looked like a big shotgun and moving across the entrance of the Capital Gazette office, pointing the gun deeper into the office like he was targeting people,” the man said.
Four died on scene and one woman was pronounced dead after she was transported to Maryland shock trauma, Schuh said.
Police carrying automatic weapons rushed about 170 office workers with their hands raised above their heads out of the building to a department store across the street.
“I was so scared,” said Rayne Foster, who worked on the fourth floor. “I was very scared.”
Locked in a room with about a dozen others, Foster had sent a text to her daughter: “There’s an active shooter. I love you.”
“I was taking deep breaths,” she said. “We could hear them busting out the glass doors and windows. It was so surreal.”
Police brought in the bomb squad to investigate a knapsack carrying some sort of device found near the suspected shooter.
Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley saidp olice had practiced active shooter training last week.
“If they [lawenforcement] were not there as quickly as they did it could have beena lot worse,” Buckley said. “We did not expect this to happen in our community, but I don’t think we could have been any more ready.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also commended the quick police response.
“It’s a tragic situation, but there were some very brave people who came in and kept it from being worse and the response time was incredible,” Hogan said, standing with police and local officials at the scene.
Buckley said Annapolis is a small town where officials all know the newspaper’s reporters, who report on zoning issues, local crime or even a cat stuck in a tree.
“They don’t make a lot of money — maybe $30,000 a year,” Buckley said. “It’s immoral that their lives were at risk.”
Acting Annapolis Police ChiefWilliam Krampf speaks about the deadly shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper Thursday.
An officer takes a position outside an office building where a mass shooting took place Thursday at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. Five people died, police said.