Accused Newsroom Shooter Had Years-Long Grudge Against Paper Over Stalking Case
The man accused of killing five people today in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette, a community newspaper in Annapolis, Md., had a longstanding beef with the publication over an article about his stalking of a former classmate.
Jarrod W. Ramos, 38, of Laurel, Md., who has a degree in computer engineering and worked for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for several years, pleaded guilty July 26, 2011, to a charge of criminal harassment in the District Court of Maryland, according to court documents. He received a 90-day suspended sentence and 18 months of supervised probation, including a requirement to stay away from his harassment victim or her family.
On July 31, 2011, the Capital Gazette ran a story that included an interview with his victim, whose acceptance of a friend request on Facebook from her old Arundel High School classmate "sparked months of emails in which Ramos alternately asked for help, called her vulgar names and told her to kill herself."
"He emailed her company and tried to get her fired... She called police, and for months he stopped. But then he started again, nastier than ever," the article added.
On July 23, 2012, Ramos sued the paper for defamation. The lawsuit was tossed out of court.
His sustained campaign of harassment against the newspaper in the years after that included a Twitter account that featured the writer of the article as the profile photo. Hundreds of tweets about the lawsuits and appeals were on the account, as well as allusions to murders of journalists in Paris and Virginia in 2015.
The Twitter bio reads: "Dear reader: I created this page to defend myself. Now I'm suing the shit out of half of AA County and making corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities."
In December 2015 he tweeted at the author of the article, "Journalist Hell awaits." That September, he tweeted a story about Donald Trump suing Univision for $500 million. "Referring to @realDonaldTrump as 'unqualified' @capgaznews could end badly (again)," he wrote, adding a link to a Capital Gazette column about the then-GOP presidential candidate.
Ramos tweeted on Jan. 21, 2016, and did not tweet again until today, shortly before the shooting: "Fuck you, leave me alone," he wrote, tagging a fake account for the judge who threw out his lawsuit.
Rob Hiaasen, an editor and columnist at paper and brother of novelist Carl Hiaasen, was among those killed in the shooting. "He spent his whole gifted career as a journalist, and he believed profoundly in the craft and mission of serving the public's right to know the news," Carl Hiaasen wrote on his Facebook page. "We called him Big Rob because he was so tall, but it was his remarkable heart and humor that made him larger than all of us."
Also killed were reporter Wendi Winters, sales assistant Rebecca Smith, editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, and reporter John McNamara.
Two were injured. Police were on scene within 60 seconds, officials said, and cleared the building.
The shooter, who used a shotgun, didn't have identification on him and was reportedly not cooperative with investigators. A backpack belonging to the gunman was reportedly found and contained smoke bombs or flash-bang grenades. Police said they were confident that there were no more explosives at the scene.
Officials said there was no exchange of gunfire between the shooter and police, and that the suspect was found hiding under a desk.
After the Annapolis shooting, the New York Police Department deployed officers to major media outlets throughout the city. Officials said the extra security was a precaution.
As he returned to the White House today, President Trump did not answer shouted questions from reporters about his reaction to the shooting. Later he tweeted from his account, "Prior to departing Wisconsin, I was briefed on the shooting at Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Thank you to all of the First Responders who are currently on the scene."
Multiple Capital Gazette staffers defiantly indicated they would be putting out a paper on Friday, with help from The Baltimore Sun.