5 shot dead in US newsroom; suspect had feud with paper
ANNAPOLIS, Maryland—A man who had a long-running feud with an Annapolis newspaper blasted his way through its newsroom with a shotgun on Thursday, killing at least five people in one of the deadliest attacks recorded on a US media outlet, authorities said.
The suspect fired through a glass door, looked for victims and then sprayed the newsroom of the Capital Gazette newspaper group in Annapolis with gunfire.
Acting police chief of the Anne Arundel County Police Department William Krampf told a news conference that Capital Gazette assistant editor Rob Hiaasen, 59, was among the victims. Wendi Winters, 65, Rebecca Smith, 34, Gerald Fischman, 61, and John McNamara were also killed, he said. Smith was a sales assistant and the others were journalists.
“This was a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette,” Krampf said. “This person was prepared to shoot people. His intent was to cause harm.”
The suspect is Jarrod Ramos, 38, of Laurel, the Capital Gazette and Baltimore Sun reported, citing law enforcement.
In 2012, Ramos brought a defamation lawsuit against Eric Hartley, formerly a staff writer and columnist with The Capital, and Thomas Marquardt, then editor and publisher of The Capital, according to a court filing.
In 2015, Maryland’s second-highest court upheld a ruling in favor of the Capital Gazette and a former reporter who were accused by Ramos of defamation.
According to a legal document, the article contended that Ramos had harassed a woman on Facebook and that he had pleaded guilty to criminal harassment. The court agreed that the contents of the article were accurate and based on public records, the document showed.
Ramos said on Twitter that he had set up an account to defend himself, and wrote in his bio that he was suing people in Anne Arundel County and “making corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities.”
‘A war zone’
Phil Davis, a Capital Gazette crime reporter, said 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, adding, “I don’t know why he stopped.”
“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,” Davis said.
Police officers in the Maryland capital of Annapolis responded within a minute to a 911 call about a shooting in progress and apprehended the suspect who was hiding under a desk, authorities said.
Police are treating the shooting as a local incident, with no links to terrorism, a law enforcement source told Reuters. Krampf did not say why the gunman may have targeted the newspaper or its employees.
When police found the suspect, his weapon was on the ground and “not in his immediate proximity,” Steve Schuh, Anne Arundel county executive, told cable news station CNN. Police said they recovered what they thought might have been an explosive device, but Krampf later said the suspect had smoke grenades.
The suspect appeared to have damaged his fingertips to try to avoid detection and was refusing to cooperate with law enforcement, Baltimore TV station WJZ and other local media reported.
Capital Gazette runs multiple newspapers out of its Annapolis office and the group includes one of the oldest newspapers in the United States, The Gazette, which traces its origins back to 1727.
The company, part of the Tronc Inc. media group, publishes newspapers in and around Annapolis, home of the US Naval Academy. The papers have thrived by focusing on local news in the shadows of two much larger competitors, the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun.
Law enforcement in Baltimore and New York City deployed extra officers to the offices of the New York Times and other major media outlets as a precaution, authorities said.
The shooting drew the attention of media groups, including Reporters Without Borders, which said it was deeply disturbed by the events in Annapolis.
White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters said US President Donald Trump had been briefed on the shooting. “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Thank you to all of the first responders who are currently on the scene,” Trump said in a tweet.
Work goes on
In the shade of a car park in Maryland’s capital Annapolis, three journalists from the Capital Gazette typed grimly away still without news of colleagues killed or injured when a gunman stormed the publication earlier Thursday.
“We’re putting out a paper tomorrow,” vowed Chase Cook, one of six reporters at the daily, where the latest mass shooting to rock the US left five people dead.
His photographer colleague Joshua McKerrow had his laptop perched on the back of a pickup truck. Their deadline had been pushed back to 9:30 p.m.
Cook was working from his smartphone from which he could access the newspaper’s editorial system. “We’re going to have a paper,” said the young man, who has worked since 2013 for The Capital, which police believe was deliberately targeted in Thursday’s attack.
“I don’t know what else to do except this,” he said. “We’re just doing our job.” Cook was not inside the paper’s offices when the gunman identified as a white man in his late 30s burst in and opened fire.
“All I know is five people are dead,” he said. —AFP