A Laurel man with a long-standing grudge against The Capital is being held as the suspect in the deadly shooting Thursday at the Annapolis newspaper, according to law enforcement sources.
Police and federal agents gathered late Thursday outside the address of 38-year-old Jarrod W. Ramos. Rich McLaughlin, chief of the Laurel police department, said his officers were there as part of the investigation into the shooting at the newspaper, and other sources identified Ramos as the suspect.
Shooter with ‘beef’ Jarrod Ramos
In 2012, Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit against the paper and a columnist over a July 2011 article that covered a criminal harassment charge against him.
He brought the suit against then-columnist Eric Hartley, naming Capital Gazette Communications and Thomas Marquardt, the paper’s former editor and publisher, as defendants.
A Twitter page in Ramos’ name on Thursday featured Hartley’s picture as its avatar, and a banner image included photographs of Marquardt and The Capital’s former owner, Philip Merrill.
Police presence out the Capital Gazette building, Thursday night
The page’s bio read: “Dear reader: I created this page to defend myself. Now I’m suing the s— out of half of AA County and making corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities.”
The account regularly commented on Anne Arundel County news and referred to a deadly shooting at the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in 2015.
The account had been dormant since January 2016. Then at 2:37 p.m. Thursday — moments before the Capital shooting — the account posted a message that read: “F— you, leave me alone.”
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“I was seriously concerned he would threaten us with physical violence,” Marquardt said from his retirement home in Florida. “I even told my wife, ‘We have to be concerned. This guy could really hurt us.’ ”
Marquardt said he called the Anne Arundel County police about Ramos in 2013, but nothing came of it. He consulted the paper’s lawyers about filing a restraining order, but decided against it.
“I remember telling our attorneys, ‘This is a guy who is going to come in and shoot us,’ ” he said.
Ramos’ aunt Vielka Ramos, 59, said she couldn’t believe he was the suspected gunman. She said her nephew had a good childhood, growing up in Severn, and attended Arundel High School.
“He was very intelligent. He would try to communicate with people but he was a loner,” she said.
After his grandmother died several years ago, she said, he stopped attending family gatherings. She had not talked to him in several years, the aunt said.
“He was distant from the family. He just wasn’t close to anybody,” she said.
In the 2011 column about the harassment charge, Hartley identified Jarrod Ramos as a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employee with no previous criminal record and a degree in computer engineering.
The harassment case centered on an online relationship Ramos tried to kindle with a former high school classmate. Hartley’s column said Ramos sent a friend request on Facebook to the woman, and the experience turned into a “yearlong nightmare.” Ramos allegedly wrote the woman and said she was the only person who ever said hello to him or was nice to him in school.
Ramos then allegedly called her vulgar names and told her to kill herself, Hartley wrote. He allegedly emailed the bank where she worked to get her fired. Ramos pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge, receiving probation from a judge who called his behavior “rather bizarre,” the column said.
Ramos’ subsequent defamation suit against The Capital worked its way through the Maryland courts until 2015, when the state’s second-highest court upheld a ruling in favor of the newspaper.
The day after the ruling was issued, the Twitter account in Ramos’ name used the same words it would again Thursday: “F— you, leave me alone.”