The accused gunman in the deadly shooting at Maryland’s Capital Gazette newspaper barricaded the back entrance of the paper’s office so people could not escape as he began “systematically hunting and killing,” Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Wes Adams said Friday.
Then he started “systematically hunting and killing” people with a shotgun he hid as he was entering the building in downtown Annapolis, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Wes Adams said Friday.
The Thursday attack left five people dead: Gerald Fischman, 61; Rob Hiaasen, 59; John McNamara, 56; Rebecca Smith, 34; and Wendi Winters, 65. Two other employees were wounded in the shooting and have been released from the hospital.
Ramos allegedly used a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun and was carrying smoke grenades during the attack.
His motive remains unclear because he hasn’t cooperated with investigators, but Anne Arundel County police Chief Timothy Altomare described it as a ” targeted attack.”
He shot people trying to escape
The first blasts came through the front door, sending employees rushing toward the back door. Ramos shot at least one victim who was trying to escape through the barricaded door, Adams said.
Ramos had a plan to escape, but it was thwarted when police responded, Adams said.
“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” Davis tweeted
When police arrived, they found Ramos hiding under a desk. He has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder, according to court records. A judge ordered him held without bail.
“We are heartbroken, devastated. Our colleagues and friends are gone. No matter how deep our loss is nothing compared to the grief our friends’ families are feeling,” Capital editor Rick Hutzell said in the newspaper’s front-page story on Friday.
The opinion page in Friday’s paper was left mostly blank with a brief message: “Today, we are speechless. This page is intentionally left blank today to commemorate victims of Thursday’s shootings at our office.”
The defamation lawsuit
Court documents show Ramos filed a defamation suit against the paper and a reporter in July 2012. The dispute was over an article that detailed Ramos’ guilty plea in a 2011 harassment case.
Court documents show Ramos filed a defamation suit in 2012 against the paper and a reporter over an article that detailed his guilty plea in a harassment case.
Titled “Jarrod wants to be your friend,” the story written by staff writer Eric Hartley detailed how Ramos repeatedly contacted a former high school classmate via Facebook, according to court documents.
The case was eventually dismissed.
Brennan McCarthy, an attorney for the woman in the harassment case, told CNN that Ramos took information she shared with him in confidence “and then used those confidential facts and (took) them to an illogical end.”
Ramos sent a letter to the woman’s employer saying she was a bipolar drunkard, which led to her being fired, the attorney said.
“They never had a romantic relationship at all and I don’t think that he ever really wanted a romantic relationship, “McCarthy said. “This was malevolence.”
Ramos posted veiled threats on social media and also turned his attention to McCarthy, re-posting McCarthy’s Facebook posts on social media, the attorney said.
“This is a man that actually stalked the attorney for the stalking victim,” McCarthy said
A Twitter account with Ramos’ name and the handle @EricHartleyFrnd is believed to belong to Ramos, a law enforcement source said.
By Friday, the account was suspended.
Police: Paper decided not to pursue charges in 2013
Altomare said his department investigated threatening online comments that Ramos allegedly made against the paper in 2013.
But in a conference call between a detective and the paper’s legal team that year, the Capital Gazette decided not to pursue charges because of fears it would exacerbate the situation, Altomare said.
In a 2013 police report, an Anne Arundel officer wrote that during that call, “I indicated that I did not believe Mr. Ramos was a threat” to the Capital’s employees.
“This was based on the contact they have had with him, as only on Twitter and civil court filings. He has not attempted to enter the Capital newspaper building or sent direct threatening correspondence,” the officer wrote.
The threatening tweets included “mention of blood in the water, journalist hell, hit man (and) open season,” the officer wrote.
Tom Marquardt, the Capital Gazette’s former editor and publisher, told CNN on Friday he was disappointed charges were not filed.
“In my mind, a layman’s mind, all I saw was a threat against my life and a threat against people who working for me,” Marquardt said. “They felt however, in their professional opinion, that the evidence wasn’t there.”
“Once we sensed something was amiss here, we took the precautionary role of making sure that the staff was aware of what was happening. … We gave them a photo of Mr. Ramos in case he would enter the newsroom,” Marquardt said, referring to when the paper was housed in a different building.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steven Schuh said Friday Ramos gave no specific warning he was going to attack the newspaper.
“I don’t believe there’s any indication that this was anything more than a personal grievance from this individual directed toward the newspaper and its employees,” Schuh said.
Suspect fired by an employer for “security suitability concerns”
In July 2014, Ramos was fired by his previous employer, Enterprise Information Services, where he worked as a help desk specialist within the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, according to court documents.
Ramos sued, saying they still owed him money, and wrote in a letter, “No misconduct was ever cited to me and I received no explanation beyond ‘suitability concern.” Ramos said he spoke with his supervisor who told him “something has come to light,” but the supervisor did not explain what the issue was.
Enterprise Information Services filed a response to Ramos’ complaint, saying the federal government demanded he be terminated “citing security suitability concerns resulting from an Investigation conducted by the Office of Inspector General.”
Investigators have found evidence at Ramos’ Laurel apartment – about a 30-minute drive from Annapolis – showing “the origination of planning” for the shooting.
They declined to provide details, other than saying the findings show “what we knew we would find, which is we have one bad guy.”
CNN’s Jason Hanna, David Shortell, Madison Park and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.