Capital newsroom shooting suspect allegedly mailed threatening letters before rampage
The alleged gunman in Thursday’s killings at the Capital sent three threatening letters before the shooting rampage at the Annapolis, Md., newspaper, Anne Arundel County police said Monday.
Thomas Marquardt, the Capital’s former publisher, said the paper’s former attorney turned over to police mail received at his law office Monday — a document, signed in the suspect’s name, saying he was on his way to the newspaper “with the objective of killing every person present.”
The document is dated Thursday, the day of the shootings, and signed Jarrod W. Ramos. Ramos is charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the mass shooting.
It included instructions to share a copy with Marquardt, who provided it to the Baltimore Sun.
Anne Arundel County police said investigators believe Ramos mailed three letters in total, including one to Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals and one to a Baltimore city judge.
“They’ll examine them and see what the letters show,” Limansky said. “It could point to different things. It could maybe open up another avenue of exploration.”
The document received by the Capital’s former attorney was written to look like a court filing, but it was not clear Monday whether it was actually filed. It is styled a “Motion for Reconsideration” by Maryland’s top court, which in 2016 refused to hear a defamation case Ramos, now 38, had filed against the newspaper.
“You were too cowardly to confront those lies, and this is your receipt,” the document says. “I told you so.”
The writer says a copy was being sent to the newspaper’s lawyer.
“I further certify I then did proceed to the office of respondent Capital-Gazette Communications … with the objective of killing every person present,” the document says.
A letter attached to the filing is addressed to retired Judge Charles Moylan Jr. Moylan wrote a scathing opinion against Ramos as part of the defamation case.
“Welcome, Mr. Moylan, to your unexpected legacy: YOU should have died,” the letter says. “Friends forever, Jarrod W. Ramos.”
Lynne Griffin pays her respects at a makeshift memorial near the Capital newspaper offices, where five people were shot and killed Thursday in Annapolis, Md. Griffin was a journalism student under John McNamara, who was one of the people killed at the paper.(Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
This undated handout photo obtained from the Anne Arundel Police shows Jarrod Ramos, the suspected Capital newspaper shooter.(Anne Arundel Police )
A resident buys a copy of the Capital newspaper in Annapolis, Md., a day after five journalists were shot dead in the newsroom.(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)
This photo combination shows the victims of the shooting at the Gazette in Annapolis, Md. From left: John McNamara, Wendi Winters, Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman and Rebecca Smith.(Baltimore Sun)
A woman delivers flowers at a memorial to shooting victims at the Capital newspaper in Annapolis, Md.(Rod Lamkey Jr. / EPA / Shutterstock)
A Law enforcement officer responds to the deadly shooting at the building that houses the Capital, a daily newspaper in Annapolis, Md.
(Matt McClain / Washington Post)
Photographer Joshua McKerrow, left, and reporter Chase Cook with the Capital work on putting out the newspaper while awaiting news from their colleagues in Annapolis, Md.(Ivan Couronne / AFP/Getty Images)
People walk from the direction of the building that houses the Capital, a daily newspaper where five people were fatally shot Thursday in Annapolis, Md.
(Matt McClain / Washington Post)
Law enforcement officers respond to the deadly shooting at the building that houses the Capital, a daily newspaper in Annapolis, Md.(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)
Law enforcement officers respond to a shooting at the Capital, a daily newspaper in Annapolis, Md., that killed five.(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)
Maryland state police officers patrol the area near the scene of a shooting at the Capital newspaper.(Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks about the shooting at a news conference in Annapolis.(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)
The scene outside the Capital newspaper building.(Joshua McKerrow / Baltimore Sun)
Police secure the area outside the building where the shooting occurred.(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)
Law enforcement officers converge at the site of the shooting.(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)
Emergency personnel congregate outside the Capital newspaper building.(Alex Wroblewski / Getty Images)
A New York police officer stands guard in front of ABC headquarters. Security was increased at media locations in Manhattan after a fatal shooting at a newspaper building in Maryland.(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
New York City police take precautionary measures by assigning officers to news outlets in the wake of the shooting at the Capital newspaper in Annapolis, Md. Here, officers stand in front of the New York Times building on Eighth Avenue.(Peter Foley / EPA)
In an interview, Marquardt called the document “chilling.”
“It’s well plotted,” Marquardt said. “This guy was thinking about this for an incredibly long time. It’s unfortunate that nobody knew it.”
Neither Moylan nor the Capital’s former lawyer could be reached for comment.
Police say Ramos used a shotgun to blast through the doors of the Capital newsroom Thursday afternoon. He is charged in the killings of editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, 59; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who led special publications; editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, 61; editor and sports writer John McNamara, 56; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a recently hired sales assistant. Ramos is being held without bail.
Capital editor Rick Hutzell told staff members Monday morning that a threatening letter had been sent by Ramos. He told his reporters not to open their own mail from now on.
“We’re going to filter it first,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Maryland judiciary declined to comment.
Ramos held a long-standing grudge against the Capital. It began with an article in the newspaper in 2011 that detailed a criminal harassment charge that a woman filed against Ramos, a former high school classmate of hers.
The woman alleged a campaign of harassment that began on Facebook and continued for months. It eventually seemed to have ended once Ramos pleaded guilty and was put on probation for 18 months.
But the publication of the article set off years of court cases in which Ramos represented himself. In 2012 he brought a defamation case against the author of the article, as well as Marquardt and the company that published the Capital. A Prince George’s County judge threw the case out, but Ramos appealed to the Court of Special Appeals.
In 2015, Moylan, a retired judge who continued to hear cases, upheld the lower court’s ruling in an opinion that quoted the Capital article in its entirety.
The judge wrote that the newspaper had done nothing wrong and that Ramos displayed a “fundamental failure to understand what defamation law is and, more particularly, what defamation law is not.”
The decision noted that Ramos had pleaded guilty. “The appellant was punished for his criminal act,” Moylan wrote. “He is not entitled to equal sympathy with his victim and may not blithely dismiss her as a ‘bipolar drunkard.’ He does not appear to have learned his lesson.”
As the courts pushed back against Ramos, the number of people he sued or assailed online grew to include the lawyers and judges he believed had wronged him. Moylan became a particular target of Ramos’ online ranting.
In a post on Twitter moments before Thursday’s shooting, he tagged an account he appears to have created in Moylan’s name. In his post, Ramos wrote, “F— you, leave me alone.”
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