Annapolis Shooting Suspect Barricaded Door in Newsroom Attack, Police Say

Annapolis Shooting Suspect Barricaded Door in Newsroom Attack, Police Say


A suspect in the shooting, who had a history of conflict with the newspaper, has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder.Published OnCreditImage by Al Drago for The New York Times

By Gary Gately and Sabrina Tavernise

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A Maryland man who had a grudge against an Annapolis newspaper barricaded the rear door to prevent people from fleeing as he used a pump-action shotgun to blast his way through the newsroom of the Capital Gazette, the authorities said Friday.

The man, Jarrod W. Ramos, 38, appeared in State District Court by a video feed on Friday and was charged with five counts of murder. He was denied bail.

“There is a certain likelihood you are a danger,” Judge Thomas Pryal told Mr. Ramos, who did not speak and showed no emotion, staring into the camera and occasionally blinking.

The arraignment came as the authorities released additional details about Thursday’s shooting and offered more information on how the suspect was identified.

Speaking outside the courtroom, Wes Adams, the Anne Arundel County state’s attorney, said one of the victims had tried to escape through the blocked door and was shot.

“As I stated to Judge Pryal there were two entrances to the offices in which this attack occurred,” Mr. Adams said. “The rear door was barricaded.”

Earlier Friday, Timothy Altomare, the Anne Arundel County police chief, said that facial recognition technology played a crucial role in helping the police identify Mr. Ramos as a suspect.

The police first tried to learn his identity through his fingerprints, but the fingerprint identification system was moving slowly, so the police moved onto using facial recognition, the chief said. A photo of the suspect was sent to the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, which searched the repository of driver’s license photos and mug shots to find a match. County police said reports of the suspect having mutilated his fingertips were not correct.

President Trump on Friday called the shooting a “horrible, horrible event.”

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

“My government will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life,” he added.

As Mr. Ramos was being arraigned, yet another American city was dealing with a mass shooting, this one at an institution at the heart of the community. State flags were lowered to half-staff and a vigil was planned for Friday night amid an outpouring of condolences and support for the families of the victims. And the newspaper’s journalists struggled in their grief as they went about the job of reporting and editing a story that involved them.

Mr. Ramos’s neighborhood in nearby Laurel is home to families from Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Kenya. Yawar Hamid, 33, owner of Indus Food, the grocery store across the street from Mr. Ramos’s apartment complex, sells night blooming orchids, newspapers in Urdu, and giant bags of basmati rice.

Mr. Hamid said he did not know Mr. Ramos, but said he was angry that he was not being called a terrorist.

Mr. Ramos’s apartment and car were searched overnight, Chief Altomare said, and some evidence has been found.

“I can’t go into a whole bunch of details about it, but I will tell you it is evidence showing the origination of planning, things like that, in his apartment,” the chief said.

“There are no other suspects we’re looking for night now,” he said, adding that Mr. Ramos has refused to cooperate with the authorities.

The Anne Arundel County state’s attorney Wes Adams, center, outside the courthouse in Annapolis, Md., after the arraignment of a suspect in the shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom.CreditPatrick Semansky/Associated Press

The 12-gauge pump-action shotgun used in the shooting was bought legally a year ago, Chief Altomare said. While he did not know why Mr. Ramos simply gave up, he said it was not because he had run out of ammunition.

“The fellow was there to kill as many people as he could kill,” he said, though he declined to say how many rounds the gunman brought with him.

Chief Altomare said that Mr. Ramos had a history with the police that included a 2013 threat against the Capital Gazette, which produces a number of local newspapers along Maryland’s shore.

“This was a targeted attack,” Chief Altomare said. “We can’t fathom why this person chose to do this.”

At the time, the chief said, the newspaper decided not to pursue any charges against Mr. Ramos.

[Read more on the suspect’s long-running dispute with the newspaper.]

“It is fully documented and was investigated,” Chief Altomare said on “CBS This Morning.” Managers of the paper and police investigators “came to a shared conclusion that carrying action further might exacerbate the situation.”

The chilling attack was covered in real time by some of the journalists who found themselves under siege. A crime reporter, Phil Davis, described how the gunman “shot through the glass door to the office” before opening fire on employees.

“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” Mr. Davis wrote.

[Read about the victims of the Capital Gazette shooting.]

The gunman was silent as he stalked the newsroom, stopping once to reload as journalists huddled in fear under their desks, Mr. Davis said in a telephone interview. Once the police arrived, staff members put their hands in the air and shouted, “We’re not him,” Mr. Davis recalled. The gunman was hiding under a desk as the police moved in. He did not exchange gunfire with officers when he was taken in.

In July 2012, Mr. Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit in Maryland’s Prince George’s County Circuit Court against Capital Gazette Communications, its then editor and publisher and a former reporter, claiming that his reputation had been damaged after the newspaper published a story the prior year about Mr. Ramos’s guilty plea in a harassment case. Three months later, he filed a fuller complaint alleging invasion of privacy.

The lawsuit was later dismissed with prejudice by Judge Maureen M. Lamasney after a March 2013 hearing, in which she asked Mr. Ramos to identify anything that was falsely reported in the July 2011 article and to cite examples about how he had been harmed. He was unable to do so, according to a partial transcript of the hearing published in an appellate court decision two years later.

Mr. Ramos represented himself and, according to the appellate decision that later affirmed the dismissal, showed no understanding of defamation law.

The article was published in July 2011 with the headline “Jarrod Wants to Be Your Friend,” and detailed a harassment charge against Mr. Ramos. According to the article, Mr. Ramos sent a friend request on Facebook to a former high school classmate and over the course of several months, he “alternately asked for help, called her vulgar names and told her to kill herself.”

The harassment continued for nearly a year. He pleaded guilty in July 2011 to harassment and was sentenced to 18 months of supervised probation and ordered to attend counseling.

Mr. Ramos graduated in 2006 from Capitol Technology University, a nonprofit college on a sweeping green lawn in Laurel, Md., said Robert A. Herschbach, director of communications for the college. The college has a focus on engineering, technology and business. Mr. Herschbach could not say whether Mr. Ramos had lived on campus or what his grade point average had been.

According to the 2011 article, Mr. Ramos had at the time worked for six years for the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Late Thursday night, the dead were identified as Gerald Fischman, 61, the newsroom’s editorial page editor; Rob Hiaasen, 59, an editor and features columnist; John McNamara, 56, a sports reporter and editor for the local weekly papers; Wendi Winters, 65, a local news reporter and community columnist; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant.

Gary Gately reported from Annapolis, and Sabrina Tavernise from Laurel, Md.

Matthew Haag contributed reporting from New York.

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