Alleged shooter, Jarrod W. Ramos seen [right] in his mugshot from Thursday has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder
After a deranged gunman blasted his way into the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis with a shotgun Thursday afternoon,five employees of the newspaper lay dead and several more were critically injured, authorities said.
Journalists dived under their desks and pleaded for help on social media. One reporter described the scene as a “war zone.” A photographer said he jumped over a dead colleague and fled for his life.
The victims were identified as Rob Hiaasen, 59, a former feature writer for The Baltimore Sun who joined the Capital Gazette in 2010 as an assistant editor and columnist; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who headed special publications; Gerald Fischman, 61, the editorial page editor; John McNamara, 56, a staff writer who had covered high school, college and professional sports for decades; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant hired in November.
Two others were injured in the attack that began about 2:40 p.m. at the Capital Gazette offices at 888 Bestgate Road in Annapolis.
Victims: [Left] Rob Hiaasen, 59, assistant editor and columnist, and [right] 61-year-old editorial page editor Gerald Fischman
[Left] Staff writer John McNamara, 56, [center], Wendi Winters, 65, community correspondent, head of special publications and [right] Rebecca Smith, 34,, a sales assistant
Police took a suspect into custody soon after the shootings. He was identified as Jarrod W. Ramos, a 38-year-old Laurel man with a long-standing grudge against the paper.
Ramos was charged with five counts of first-degree murder, according to online court records. He did not have an attorney listed; a bail review hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday in Annapolis.
“This was a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette,” said Anne Arundel County Deputy Police Chief William Krampf. “This person was prepared today to come in. He was prepared to shoot people.”
Local, state and federal law enforcement officials cordoned off the Laurel apartment complex listed as the address for Ramos Thursday evening.
Gunman Jarrod Ramos [L-R]has been charged with murder after his mass shooting spree Thursday in Annapolis, Maryland which left five people dead
A witness said the chaos at the Gazette building in Annapolis, MD Thursday felt like a ‘war zone’
He heard another shot, he said, dived under a co-worker’s desk “and curled up as small as I could.”
“I dove under that desk as fast as I could, and by the grace of God, he didn’t look over there,” he said. “I was curled up, trying not to breathe, trying not to make a sound, and he shot people all around me.”
Gillespie said he heard one colleague scream “No!,” then a shot. Then another colleague’s voice, and another shot. He could hear the gunman approaching his hiding place.
“I kept thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to die. I can’t believe this.’ ” Gillespie said.
But the gunman passed him, he said, and continued to shoot. Eventually, there was a lull in the shots. Gillespie stood and ran for the exit, through the shattered glass, jumping over the body of a colleague he believed was dead as another shot rang out in his direction.
He ran to a nearby bank and screamed for people to call the cops.
“I feel like I should be helping to cover it,” he said, “but I’m a mess.”
Authorities said police responded to the scene within a minute of the shooting.
The Capital Gazette newsroom was one of the oldest in the nation
“If they were not there as quickly as they were, it could have been a lot worse,” Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said.
Officials at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore confirmed that the hospital was treating at least one victim. County Executive Steve Schuh said others were being treated at Anne Arundel Medical Center.
Loren Farquhar, a medical center spokeswoman, said the hospital received two patients, both with minor injuries not from gunfire.
The injured employees were identified as Rachael Pacella, a reporter who covers education and the Naval Academy, and Janel Cooley, a sales representative who covers downtown Annapolis. Both were treated and released.
A spokeswoman for the Baltimore Sun Media Group said the company was “deeply saddened” by the shooting.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with our colleagues and their families,” spokeswoman Renee Mutchnik said. “Our immediate focus is on providing support and resources for all our employees and cooperating with the authorities as this situation is still under investigation.”
Police in SWAT gear carrying assault rifles cordoned off the area around the newsroom and closed Bestgate Road.
Jimmy DeButts, an editor, wrote on Twitter that he was “devastated and heartbroken.”
He praised his colleagues’ work.
“There are no 40-hour weeks, no big paydays — just a passion for telling stories from our community,” DeButts wrote. “We keep doing more with less. We find ways to cover high school sports, breaking news, tax hikes, school budgets & local entertainment. We are there in times of tragedy. We do our best to share the stories of people, those who make our community better. Please understand, we do all this to serve our community.”
Gov. Larry Hogan wrote on Twitter that he was “absolutely devastated to learn of this tragedy in Annapolis.”
Security agents surround the suspect’s home during a search on Thursday
Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who has represented Annapolis in the House of Delegates since 1987, called the Capital Gazette “the voice of the community.”
“This is a shocker,” Busch said. “Over the years, a lot of these people become friends. They do their job, you do your job, and you respect them for it. A lot of good writers have come out of there.”
The Capital Gazette is one of 30 tenants in the building.