Killing of journalists comes amid Trump attacks on ‘fake media’
In this frame from video, people leave the Capital Gazette newspaper after multiple people have been shot on Thursday, June 28, 2018, in Annapolis, Md. | WJLA via AP

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – A man firing a shotgun and armed smoke grenades killed four journalists and a staffer at Maryland’s capital newspaper, then was swiftly taken into custody by police who rushed into the building.

Thursday’s attack on The Capital Gazette in Annapolis came amid months of verbal and online attacks on the “fake news media” from politicians and others from President Donald Trump on down. It prompted New York City police to immediately tighten security at news organizations in the nation’s media capital.

Police said the suspect in custody is a white man in his late 30s.

Acting Police Chief William Krampf of Anne Arundel County called it a targeted attack in which the gunman “looked for his victims.”

“This person was prepared today to come in, this person was prepared to shoot people,” Krampf said.
Journalists crawled under desks and sought other hiding places in what they described as minutes of terror as they heard the gunman’s footsteps and the repeated blasts of the shotgun as he moved about the newsroom.

Those killed included Rob Hiaasen, 59, the paper’s assistant managing editor and brother of novelist Carl Hiaasen. Carl Hiaasen said he was “devastated and heartsick” at losing his brother, “one of the most gentle and funny people I’ve ever known.” Also slain were Gerald Fischman, editorial page editor; features reporter Wendi Winters; reporter John McNamara, and sales assistant Rebecca Smith. The newspaper said two other employees had non-life threatening injuries and were later released from a hospital.

Krampf said the gunman was a Maryland resident, but didn’t name him.

Separately, a law enforcement official said the suspect was identified as Jarrod W. Ramos. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Phil Davis, a courts and crime reporter for the paper, tweeted that the gunman shot out the glass door to the office and fired into the newsroom, sending people scrambling under desks.

“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” he wrote in a tweet. In a later interview appearing on the paper’s online site, Davis likened the newspaper office to a “war zone.”

“I’m a police reporter. I write about this stuff — not necessarily to this extent, but shootings and death — all the time,” he said. “But as much as I’m going to try to articulate how traumatizing it is to be hiding under your desk, you don’t know until you’re there and you feel helpless.”

Reporter Selene San Felice told CNN she was at her desk but ran after hearing shots, only to find a back door locked. She then watched as a colleague was shot, adding she didn’t glimpse the gunman.
“I heard footsteps a couple of times,” she said. “I was breathing really loud and was trying not to, but I couldn’t be quiet.”

The reporter recalled a June 2016 mass shooting attack on Orlando’s gay nightclub Pulse and how terrified people crouching inside had texted loved ones as dozens were killed. Said San Felice, “And there I was sitting under a desk, texting my parents and telling them I loved them.”

Survivors said the shooting — though it seemed agonizingly long — lasted mere minutes. And police said their response was swift.

Former Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild member Robert Hiaasen, 59, an editor at the Annapolis Capital Gazette, was one of five murder victims. Hiaasen was a Guild member while working as a reporter and columnist for the Baltimore Sun for 15 years before moving to the Annapolis paper. The Capital Gazette is Sun subsidiary. The Sun is unionized, but its subsidiaries, including the Annapolis paper, are not.

Angie Kuhl, retired Sun unit chair for WBNG, also reported a “go fund me” social media drive has started to help the families of Hiaasen and the four other victims: Reporter Wendi Winters, sales assistant Rebecca Smith, reporter John McNamara and another editor, Gerald Fischman. Two other people were slightly injured, treated at local hospitals and released.

Gunman Jerrod Ramos had a grudge against the paper after losing a defamation case in 2015, police said. He first shot through the paper’s front glass door, then walked inside. He also carried canisters with smoke grenades he used. In response, major cities beefed up police protection at their papers. Questions arose on social media whether the shooting was politically motivated, given GOP President Donald Trump’s open hate of the mass media.

Mark Gruenberg contributed to this article.


CONTRIBUTOR

Associated Press
Associated Press

The Associated Press (AP) is an American multinational nonprofit news agency headquartered in New York City that operates as a cooperative, unincorporated association. Most of the AP staff are union members and are represented by the Newspaper Guild, which operates under the Communications Workers of America, which operates under the AFL–CIO.

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