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Annapolis Mayor: White House Turned Down Half-Staff Request to Honor Slain Journalists

Photos of five journalists adorn candles during a vigil across the street from where they were slain in their newsroom in Annapolis, Md., on June 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON — The mayor of Annapolis, Md., said the White House turned down his request for flags to be flown at half-staff in remembrance of the five journalists slain in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette last Thursday.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed, you know? … Is there a cutoff for tragedy?” Mayor Gavin Buckley said Monday afternoon, according to the Baltimore Sun. “This was an attack on the press. It was an attack on freedom of speech. It’s just as important as any other tragedy.”

Flags were ordered lowered to half-staff across the federal government after the Las Vegas mass shooting and after this year’s mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered flags flown at half-staff for a week.

Five staffers of the Capital Gazette were killed in the attack. Jarrod Ramos of Laurel, Md., 38, who had harassed the newspaper for years and claimed defamation for their coverage of his 2011 guilty plea for stalking a classmate from high school, was arrested and charged with five counts of first-degree murder.

Police said Ramos was investigated in 2013 for threatening comments directed at newspaper staff. The pump-action shotgun used in the attack was purchased a year ago; shotgun sales are regulated only by federal law in the state. Before the attack began at the front of the office, the shooter barricaded the rear doors of the newspaper’s offices to impede escapes.

Authorities said Monday that Ramos sent three threatening letters before the attack, meant to look like a court document with the statement that he was heading to the newspaper “with the objective of killing every person present.” One letter was sent to the newspaper’s former attorney, another one to Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals and another to a Baltimore judge.

A note attached to the letter to appellate Judge Charles Moylan Jr. reportedly said, “Welcome, Mr. Moylan, to your unexpected legacy: YOU should have died. Friends forever, Jarrod W. Ramos.”

The woman who was cyberstalked years ago by Ramos, who has since moved out of Maryland, told NBC that when she saw news of a shooting at the Capital Gazette she picked up the phone to call authorities to help identify the suspect.

“I know he can’t come and get me today, but I have been tormented and traumatized and terrorized for so long that it has, I think, changed the fiber of my being,” she said.

On Friday, Trump called the shooting a “horrific” attack that “shocked the conscience of our nation, and filled our hearts with grief.”

“To the families of the victims: There are no words to express our sorrow for your loss. Horrible, horrible event, horrible thing happened. In your suffering, we pledge our eternal support. The suffering is so great. I’ve seen some of the people — so great,” he said. “My government will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime, and to protect innocent life. We will not ever leave your side.”

At the beginning of a tax reform event at the White House, the president said that “journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.”

The American Society of News Editors is calling on newsrooms worldwide to observe “a moment of silence for contemplation, prayer, reflection or meditation” at 2:33 p.m. Thursday, one week after the attack.

UPDATE: On July 3, the White House issued a proclamation ordering flags be flown at half-staff “as a mark of solemn respect for the victims of the terrible act of violence perpetrated.”