The 38-year-old gunman who carried out a deadly assault on a newspaper office in Annapolis had barricaded a back door hoping to “kill as many” as he could, authorities said Friday, confirming he pursued a years-long vendetta against the paper.
Police said the suspect — identified as Maryland resident Jarrod Ramos — used a legally purchased pump-action shotgun in an onslaught that left five employees of the Capital Gazette dead, and two others wounded on Thursday.
A judge ordered Ramos held without bail on five counts of first-degree murder, county prosecutor Wes Adams told a media briefing.
Adams said the decision was based partly on evidence suggesting a “coordinated attack” on the newspaper in Maryland’s historic capital, including “the barricading of a back door and the use of a tactical approach in hunting down and shooting the innocent victims.”
He “was there to kill as many people as he could kill,” said police chief Timothy Altomare, of Anne Arundel County.
Police confirmed that Ramos, a resident of nearby Laurel, Maryland, had a long-standing grudge against the paper over a 2011 article about a criminal harassment case brought against him by a former high school classmate.
Ramos went on to make “vague threats” against reporters and the paper, former editor Thomas Marquardt told MSNBC, so much so that staff members were told to call the 911 emergency number if Ramos ever entered the office.
Altomare said police in May 2013 investigated “online threatening comments” against the newspaper, which serves the local community in the coastal region near Baltimore and Washington, but that the paper did not want to pursue charges for fear of exacerbating the situation.
He confirmed Ramos, who has declined to cooperate with investigators and stood silent as he appeared in court via videolink on Friday, was identified using facial recognition technology.
Friday’s edition of the paper — published despite the grief of its staff — succinctly summed up the tragedy in a lead headline: “5 Shot Dead at The Capital.”
Inside, the editorial page declared, “We are speechless,” but was otherwise blank in honor of those slain.
Thursday’s shooting hit a newspaper whose roots go back to the 18th century. It was one of the worst attacks ever to target journalists in the United States, prompting police to step up security at other news organizations.
President Donald Trump, often a harsh critic of the media, made a point Friday of addressing the “horrific shooting” which “shocked the conscience of our nation.”
“Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job,” he said at a White House event.