In a state with some of the toughest gun control laws in the country, five people were fatally shot Thursday in the Annapolis offices of the Capital Gazette, one of Maryland’s oldest newspapers, thus boosting the state’s homicide count even higher, with police saying it was a “targeted attack.”
One newspaper staffer, quoted by The Independent, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Thursday evening that she “couldn’t give a f***” about President Donald Trump’s “prayers” without some action on so-called “gun violence.”
That Capital Gazette’s Friday edition featured a front page report on the tragedy, and buried in that story is the notation that an unidentified employee of another company in the same building “pulled two handguns out of his desk drawer for self-defense.”
The suspect, Jarrod W. Ramos, has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder. He is being held without bond. He has a history of conflict with the newspaper that included an unsuccessful lawsuit, alleging defamation. Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare told CBS News Friday that the pump-action shotgun used in the attack was purchased legally “within the last 18 months.”
Maryland’s strict gun laws have not prevented a grim body count over the years. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2016 – the most recent year for which data is available – Maryland reported 430 homicides, of which 328 were committed with firearms. Of those, 309 involved handguns, two were committed with rifles, three more with shotguns and 14 with unidentified weapons. The previous year, Maryland logged 372 slayings, of which 279 involved firearms, the FBI report said. Of those, 266 were committed with handguns, 3 more with rifles and three with shotguns, plus seven with “unknown weapons.”
According to the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore alone has racked up more than 300 homicides over each of the past three years. As of May 9, the city had already logged more than 100 slayings, not all of them with firearms.
Ramos allegedly used a shotgun to kill all five of the victims, and two other newspaper employees were injured by flying glass when the suspect allegedly fired through the Gazette’s glass office doors.
Killed in the attack were journalists Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters, Gerald Fischman and John McNamara, and sales assistant Rebecca Smith.
According to the New York Post, a woman who claimed the suspect had harassed and stalked her had warned a “former police official” that the suspect would be “your next mass shooter.”
USA Today reported that the suspect was found hiding under a desk after apparently putting down the gun. He was taken into custody but is reportedly refusing to cooperate with investigators.