LAUREL – Tragedy struck a newsroom on June 28 in the afternoon when a gunman targeted The Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis and killed five people while leaving several injured after the shooter opened fire on the staff in the first floor of the building on 888 Bestgate Road.
The suspect of the shooting is 38-year-old Jarrod Ramos of Laurel according to law enforcement reports.
The assailant allegedly wielded a shotgun and grenades but was subdued and interrogated after the fatal shooting.
“This is so sad, and I don’t know what to say other than our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, and we take comfort knowing that they are in God’s embrace,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Shuh.
“I want to commend the public safety professionals who were very quick to the scene here in about 60 seconds and we’ve had a tremendous response not only from Anne Arundel Police and Fire, Annapolis Police and Fire, but also State Police, Howard County, Prince George’s, several federal agencies including FBI and ATF.”
Capital Gazette crime reporter Phil Davis was in the building during the shooting and claimed that he could hear his coworkers being shot and distinctly listened to the gunman reloading in a terrifying series of events.
Ramos allegedly had an ongoing dispute with the paper and even filed a lawsuit for defamation of character that was later dismissed by the court of law. The attack was considered to be a targeted response based on Ramos’ extensive dispute and history with the paper.
“This was a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette,” said Anne Arundel Deputy Police Chief William Kramf. “This person was prepared to come in. He was prepared to shoot people.”
With the location being reminiscent of a war zone to some accounts, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan looked visibly shaken by the series events that took place right in his backyard during an impromptu press conference at the scene.
“Our emergency response team is doing an incredible job,” Hogan said. “It is a tragic situation, we don't have all of the information yet, and we can’t give all of the information yet because it is an active crime scene, but we have had several fatalities and several people that are in the hospital, and we will leave it to the professionals who will continue their ongoing investigation.
“Your heart goes out to all of the people that lost their lives and all of their families and all of the other people that are affected here. It’s just a tragic situation.”
The investigation is still ongoing and Laurel Chief of Police, Richard McLaughlin, has conducted a search of Ramos’ former residence near Route 1 as tenants of the apartment building were evacuated the evening of the shooting in conjunction with Anne Arundel Police and federal officials.
The victims were all employees including Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Robert Hiaasen, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.
Gerald Fischman and John McNamara were University of Maryland alumni and worked for The Diamondback newspaper at the College Park-based school. Fischman was formerly the Editorial Page Editor for the Capital Gazette, and McNamara was an editor who oversaw all content for Bowie Blade-News.
Hiaasen was the Capital Gazette Assistant Editor and taught journalism classes at UMD this past spring. Rebecca Smith was a sales assistant for the paper and Winters was a dedicated reporter for the organization.
“Gerald was a dedicated editor and excellent writer, with a knack for the issues most important to the people of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County,” Hogan said.
“Rob was an outstanding editor who cared deeply about his staff and mentoring reporters. I enjoyed our many conversations over the years and valued his insight.
John was a talented reporter and editor who I was fortunate to work within his coverage of Bowie and local politics. His coverage was always fair, and I appreciated his diligence and commitment to his profession.
Wendi was a prolific and hardworking reporter. She was well known in her community for her reporting, volunteer work and role as a proud Navy mom.
Rebecca was a kind and thoughtful person and a friend to many.”
Sports reporter Ted Black worked under McNamara at Bowie Blade-News and weighed in on his loss which hit home to the surrounding community.
“I had known John McNamara for over 20 years and there was never anyone more dedicated to his craft and also a genuinely good person,” Black said.
“During my brief time frame between full-time jobs with the Prince George’s Gazette and the Southern Maryland Newspapers, I covered sports for the Bowie Blade-News not long after John became the editor of that paper.
His death on Wednesday was sad and tragic and the industry lost a dedicated professional who will certainly be sorely missed by myself and countless others on numerous levels.”
On the following day, June 29, court records indicated that Ramos is charged with five counts of first-degree murder. With heavy hearts, Hogan’s office released a statement honoring the fallen by lowering the flags at half-staff until July 2.
“With the lowering of the Maryland flag, we honor the dedicated journalists of our hometown newspaper in our state’s capital. To the family, friends and colleagues at the Capital Gazette and its parent company, the Baltimore Sun, you have the deepest sympathies of a state in mourning,” Hogan said.
“There is no amount of clarity that will ever explain or nullify the pain that comes with losing so many lives for so little reason; journalism is a noble profession upon which our democracy depends, and we will fight to defend it.”
The flags were lowered at sunset on Monday, July 2. A vigil took place at the Capital Gazette location on June 29 honoring the journalists who lost their lives to a senseless act of terrorism.