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A local resident lays an American flag at an impromptu memorial outside of the Capital Gazette, the day after a gunman killed five people at the newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, on June 29, 2018. (Reuters/Leah Millis)

Alleged killer of Capital Gazette employees had made repeated threats

June 29, 2018 2:18 PM ET

New York, June 29, 2018--A gunman shot to death five people in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, yesterday afternoon in what police called a "targeted attack," the newspaper reported. Police arrested Jarrod Ramos, 38, and charged him with five counts of first-degree murder, the paper said, citing court documents. He had previously filed an unsuccessful defamation lawsuit against the paper.

"Journalists covering their own communities are vulnerable to violent attack. This has long been true around the world and the U.S. is sadly no exception," said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. "We are appalled by these murders. This is a time for everyone who values journalists to stand together and recognize the vital role they play in keeping the public informed."

Among the victims are four journalists: editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, sports writer John McNamara, and community correspondent Wendi Winters. Rebecca Smith, a sales assistant, was also killed, the newspaper reported.

According to news reports, Ramos had a longstanding grudge against the paper. In 2011, the paper had reported on a criminal harassment case against Ramos related to his stalking a former classmate on Facebook. In 2012, he filed a defamation suit against the paper, which was later dismissed. In 2015, a judge upheld the dismissal on appeal, according to court documents and news reports.

The Capital Gazette reported that the paper had received threats from Ramos leading up to the attack. A Twitter account under Ramos's name included several posts related to the case and vitriol aimed at the paper, according to news reports. The profile photo on the account was an avatar of Eric Hartley, the author of the article about Ramos's harassment case.

Tom Marquardt, the newspaper's editor and publisher until 2012, told media that he had grappled with how to respond to Ramos's threats and contacted the police, but decided against filing a lawsuit or requesting a legal restraining order. "I said during that time, 'This guy is crazy enough to come in and blow us all away," he told The Los Angeles Times.

The Capital Gazette said neither Hartley nor Marquardt, who were the defendants of the defamation lawsuit, are still employed by the paper, and they were not present during the shootings.

Ramos carried a shotgun and hand-grenades. Law enforcement officials said he had barricaded the rear exit of the newsroom to trap his victims inside, according the Capital Gazette.

According to CPJ research, the shooting marked the deadliest single attack on the media in recent U.S. history. Until this week, seven journalists had been killed in relation to their work in the United States since CPJ began keeping records in 1992. That includes two journalists shot and killed during a live broadcast in Virginia by an aggrieved coworker in 2015. Earlier this year, a music journalist was killed in Chicago; CPJ is still investigating the motive for that killing.

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