Gun violence in the US

Gunman ‘who shot 5 at US newspaper’ barricaded exit so he could kill as many as possible, say prosecutors

Jarrod Ramos is being held without bail; US President Donald Trump called the shooting ‘horrific’ but did not respond when asked if he would still refer to journalists as ‘enemies of the people’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 June, 2018, 3:34am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 June, 2018, 5:46am

The suspect in Thursday’s deadly shotgun assault on a newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland, had barricaded a back door in a bid to “kill as many people as he could”, authorities said on Friday, confirming that the man had first made threats against the paper years ago.

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Briefing reporters a day after the shooting left five employees dead, Police Chief Timothy Altomare of Anne Arundel County said Jarrod Ramos, 38, used a legally purchased pump-action shotgun in an onslaught that also left two wounded.

A judge on Friday ordered Ramos held without bail on five counts of first-degree murder, county prosecutor Wes Adams said in a separate briefing.

Adams said that the decision was based partly on “evidence that suggested a coordinated attack” on The Capital, including “the barricading of a back door and the use of a tactical approach in hunting down and shooting the innocent victims.”

He “was there to kill as many people as he could,” county police chief Timothy Altomare told reporters, using a shotgun bought around a year ago.

Police confirmed that Ramos, a resident of the Washington suburb of Laurel, Maryland, had a long-standing grudge against the newspaper over a 2011 article about his guilty plea in a court proceeding concerning his harassment of a local woman.

He filed a defamation suit against the newspaper in 2012; it was thrown out on appeal in 2015.

Altomare said that in May 2013 police also investigated “online threatening comments” against the newspaper, which serves the Maryland state capital as well as the coastal region between Baltimore and Washington, but that the paper did not want to pursue charges then for fear of exacerbating the situation.

Friday’s edition of the paper – published despite the grief of its staff – succinctly summed up the tragedy in a lead headline: “5 Shot Dead at The Capital.”

Atop the front page were pictures and names of those killed: Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.

“Today, we are speechless,” the newspaper wrote on its editorial page, which was left almost entirely blank to “commemorate victims of Thursday’s shootings at our office”.

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US President Donald Trump, who has been at loggerheads with much of the news media since taking office, made a point Friday to address the “horrific shooting” which “shocked the conscience of our nation, and filled our hearts with grief”.

“Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job,” he said before a speech at the White House to celebrate the tax overhaul law.

But asked by a reporter at the end of the speech whether he would stop using the term “enemy of the people” to describe journalists, Trump did not answer.

Before the sun rose Friday morning, the Capital arrived on newsstands and in front yards across Annapolis, where residents said their hometown paper means “everything” to them.

A Wawa convenience store less than a mile from the office complex where the newspaper shooting occurred sold out of the newspaper just after 6 a.m. Aubrey Baden III, 50, who said he grew up reading the paper, grabbed the last one.

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“I knew I definitely had to get a copy today,” said Baden, a high school English teacher. “I commend them for putting it out … It’s a beautiful, tight-knit community, and we’re all hurting for them.”

Outside the Capital’s office, in a nondescript office complex that also houses a Kaiser Permanente medical suite and other businesses, camera crews had gathered and Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh was holding his copy of the paper.

“The Capital is our hometown newspaper,” Schuh said. “We are just heartbroken.”

Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, ordered Maryland flags lowered through Monday in memory of the victims.

“We honor the dedicated journalists of our hometown newspaper in our state’s capital,” Hogan said in a statement. “Journalism is a noble profession upon which our democracy depends, and we will fight to defend it.”