At approximately 3:00pm local time yesterday, June 28, 38-year-old Jarrod Warren Ramos shot and killed five people and injured two others at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, MD. Anne Arundel County deputy police chief stated that Ramos entered the building, located at 888 Bestgate Road, with a legally purchased shotgun and smoke grenades, and “walked through the lower level of the building where the newspaper is housed.” Ramos then fired through the glass door of the newsroom, continually shooting at individuals, killing five employees of the newspaper. The suspect had also barricaded one of the exits at the office, preventing people from escaping.
Ramos was later found hiding under a desk and was taken into custody for interrogation. Authorities identified Ramos of Laurel, MD, through facial recognition after his fingerprints allegedly “appeared to have been altered, making it difficult to initially identify him.”
Yesterday’s incident has already been confirmed as a targeted attack; however, it is unclear whether Ramos was targeting specific individuals or just intended to harm those affiliated with the publisher. Most of the victims had been employed or involved with Capital Gazette for multiple years; however, one death included a newly hired sales assistant. Court documents show that Ramos filed a defamation claim against the paper in 2012 after a Capital Gazette article covered his guilty plea in a 2011 harassment case. Ramos was charged with five counts of first-degree murder and is being held without bail. Multiple state, local, and federal agencies, including Anne Arundel County Police, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are all involved in the investigation and claim there are no other suspects. At this time, Ramos is not cooperating or speaking with investigators. Sources also report that investigators have searched a home linked to Ramos; however, details on any findings have not been released at this time.
Investigators are looking into social media threats that were directed at the newspaper, as reports indicate that The Capital Gazette was threatened with violence as recently as Thursday. Reports state that a Twitter account, believed to be Ramos’, included mentions of Capital Gazette a total of 149 times out of the account’s 876 tweets. Ramos’s Twitter account showed no privacy settings on the day of the attack, allowing any user to view the tweets on their page. Additional investigations into his, now suspended, Twitter revealed that Ramos, on separate occasions, referenced previous attacks against journalism outlets in conjunction with threats against Capital Gazette. According to reports, one tweet depicted the perpetrator of the 2015 live shooting of a Roanoke CBS reporter as a gunman pointing a weapon toward Eric Hartley, a Capital Gazette columnist. Media sources also purport that Ramos made reference to the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack, suggesting that Ramos could have been inspired by previous attacks. Ramos’s account also showed mentions of Eric Hartley, the columnist who wrote about Ramos’ 2011 harassment case. The Capital Gazette article titled “Jarrod wants to be your friend” detailed Ramos’ case where he allegedly repeatedly contacted a former high school classmate via Facebook. Ramos brought a defamation suit against Hartley and the organization’s editor and publisher. A court ruled in favor of Capital Gazette, and an appeals court upheld the ruling.
Yesterday’s shooting highlights the vulnerability of soft targets, and is reminiscent of other attacks targeting the press. In addition, The Capital Gazette is reported to have had little to no physical security at its facility at the time of the attack. It is also important to note that individuals oftentimes use social media to express their feelings freely, including violent thoughts and desires to harm others. This shooting highlights the connection that is often apparent between violent or threatening social media activity and violent acts. The shooting demonstrates the importance of taking into account red flags and patterns of behaviors from potentially violent individuals.
Yesterday’s attack appears to be the deadliest involving journalists in the U.S. in decades. Threats against members of the media have been on the rise in recent years, but murders of American journalists are rare. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which tracks threats to journalists worldwide, reported that “seven journalists have been killed in relation to their work in the U.S” since the group began its tracking effort in 1992. The last incident where multiple journalists were killed while on assignment in the U.S. was in 2015, when a former employee attacked two members of a WDBJ TV news crew. Another incident targeting an information sharing company includes the shooting at YouTube’s headquarters San Bruno, CA earlier this year. Thirty-nine-year-old Nasim Najafi Aghdam fired off several rounds in a courtyard outside of the company’s building, wounding three people, before taking her own life. Investigators found that the suspect retaliated for what she deemed was a vendetta against her, which also played a role in the shooting at The Capital Gazette. As a result of yesterday’s shooting, there was an increase in security on newsrooms outside of Maryland. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) reported that it “deployed counterterrorism teams to media organization” in and around the city “out of an abundance of caution.”