A gunman shot to death Rob Hiaasen, editor and columnist for the Capital Gazette, in the Capital’s newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, on June 28 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.
Hiaasen, 59, was one of five people killed, four of whom were journalists. The other victims were editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, sports writer John McNamara, community correspondent Wendi Winters, and Rebecca Smith, a sales assistant, the newspaper reported.
Hiaasen left The Baltimore Sun to join the Capital Gazette in 2010 as an assistant editor, and wrote a Sunday column for the paper. He was described by family and colleagues as an observant and wry writer who was drawn to quirky stories and was a generous mentor to young reporters, The Baltimore Sun reported. Hiaasen, who has three children, celebrated his 33rd wedding anniversary with his wife, Maria, a week before the attack.
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.
On October 28, 2019, Ramos pleaded guilty to 23 charges including five counts of first-degree murder, but argued that he was not criminally responsible for his actions due to his mental state, according to reports.
During the trial, which began June 29, 2021, prosecutors argued that Ramos had methodically planned the shooting, while the defense said that he was not mentally sound, reports said.
On July 15, a jury in Anne Arundel County, Maryland ruled that Ramos is criminally responsible for his actions, the Capital Gazette reported.
On September 28, 2021, an Anne Arundel County circuit court judge, Michael Wachs, sentenced Ramos to the maximum prison term possible: six terms of life in prison, five without the possibility of parole, and 345 years, all to be served consecutively, according to news reports.
“The impact of this case is simply immense,” Wachs said, according to the Capital Gazette. “To say the defendant showed a callous and cruel disregard for the sanctity of human life is simply an understatement.”