Advertisement
World & Nation

Capital shooting suspect barricaded exit doors as part of a pre-planned attack, authorities say

The Baltimore Sun

The 38-year-old Laurel, Md., man who gunned down five employees of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., used a pump-action shotgun purchased legally, and had barricaded the exit doors as part of a pre-planned attack, authorities said Friday.

Jarrod Warren Ramos made his first appearance in court since being charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the attack, staring impassively and blinking at the camera as he appeared over a video link from Anne Arundel County Jail.

Years after unsuccessfully suing the newspaper for defamation, Ramos blasted through the doors of the newspaper offices Thursday afternoon and hid under a desk where police found him, according to charging documents.

Ramos is charged in the killings of editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, 59; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who headed special publications; editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, 61; sportswriter John McNamara, 56; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant. Two other staff members, Rachael Pacella and Janel Cooley, were injured during the attack. They have been released from the hospital.

Advertisement

Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare said at a Friday morning news conference that police found evidence of planning at the gunman’s apartment, and State’s Atty. Wes Adams said Ramos led a “coordinated attack” that included barricading the back door of the building.

“The fellow was there to kill as many people as possible,” Altomare said.

The suspect did not cooperate with police, and Altomare confirmed that authorities used facial recognition technology, drawing from the Maryland Image Repository System, to identify Ramos. Altomare dispelled media reports that the suspect had mutilated his fingers to hide his prints.

Ramos wore a dark medical-scrub-style shirt at his bail review hearing and was ordered held without bail by a district court judge. “There is a certain likelihood you are a danger,” Judge Thomas Pryal said.

Advertisement

Anne Arundel’s top public defender, William Davis, represented Ramos at the bail hearing. He argued against holding the hearing and he asked for a gag order in the case. The judge denied both of those motions. Adams argued to keep Ramos in jail, not only because he is charged with five murders, but due to the nature of the crimes.

Outside of the courthouse, Adams elaborated on Ramos’ actions at the newspaper office.

“There were two entrances to the offices in which this attack occurred. The rear door was barricaded. Mr. Ramos then, as I told the judge, entered the front door and made his way through the office, where he was shooting victims as he walked through the office.”

Windows at the suspect’s basement apartment were boarded up by early Friday morning and a large dent marked the blue door. Ramos’ name was scrawled on a green slip of paper on the mailbox.

Residents of the building declined to comment and a property manager called Laurel police to help clear news reporters from the apartment complex’s parking lot about 9:30 a.m., just as more reporters arrived on the scene.

To help piece together the details of how the shooting rampage unfolded, police used surveillance video from the office.

The attack began about 2:40 p.m., when 170 people were working inside the 5,000-square-foot office complex. The Capital Gazette, which is owned by the Baltimore Sun, is one of 30 tenants in the building and one of a handful on the first floor.

Reporters who witnessed the shooting said they dived under their desks for protection, some said they tried not to breathe or make any sounds, some screamed and others pleaded for help on Twitter. Police said they arrived within 60 seconds, and surrounded the shooter.

Advertisement

Photographer Paul Gillespie said, “I kept thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to die. I can’t believe this.’”

He made it out alive, describing running during a lull in the gunfire and jumping over a co-worker’s body and escaping the building. Gillespie said he made it to a nearby bank and screamed for people to call the police.

Ramos’ long grudge with the Capital Gazette began in July 2011 after the paper ran a column about him harassing a former high school classmate on social media and the criminal case against him. He sued the columnist and the organization’s editor and publisher for damaging his reputation, but a court ruled in the newspaper’s favor and Ramos ultimately lost an appeal.

In a 2014 court filing, Ramos said that he wanted to kill columnist Eric Hartley, who had written about his harassment case.

“Plaintiff has sworn a legal oath he would like to kill Hartley, and he still would,” Ramos wrote.

Neither Hartley nor the editor and publisher, Thomas Marquardt, are still employed by the Capital Gazette. They were not present during the shootings.

Altomare said the newspaper’s lawyers had talked with police in 2013 about whether misdemeanor charges should be pressed against Ramos. But they decided doing so might just further antagonize him and worsen the situation, he said.

Altomare refrained from using Ramos’ name during the Friday morning news conference. “I will not say his name today,” the chief said. “He doesn’t deserve for us to talk about him for one more second.”

Advertisement

President Trump addressed Thursday’s “horrific shooting.”

“This attack shocked the conscience of our nation and filled our hearts with grief,” Trump said from the White House on Friday. “Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their jobs.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Yvonne Wenger, Kevin Rector and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs contributed to this report.

RELATED: Capital Gazette victims: A prolific writer, a generous mentor and the voice of a community newspaper »


UPDATES:

1:25 p.m.: This article was updated with information from a 2014 court filing detailing the suspect’s grievances with the Capital.

10:45 a.m..: This article was updated to include additional comments from Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare

10 a.m.: This article was updated to include reports from the Anne Arundel County Police news conference and information from the bail hearing.

This article was originally published at 8 a.m.


Newsletter
Must-read stories from the L.A. Times

Get all the day's most vital news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
Advertisement