5 killed in targeted shooting at Maryland newspaper

A gunman identified as Jarrod W. Ramos opened fire in a targeted attack on a newspaper office in Maryland’s capital on Thursday, killing five people and wounding others before being taken into custody.

'This person was prepared today to come in, this person was prepared to shoot people'

Maryland police officers patrol the scene of a shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md. (Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press)

A gunman opened fire in a targeted attack on a newspaper office in Maryland's capital on Thursday, killing five people and wounding others before being taken into custody, according to police.

Police said the suspect is a man in his late 30s whose rampage at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis followed social media threats.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press the suspect has been identified as Jarrod W. Ramos. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Jarrod Ramos, suspected of killing five people at the offices of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., is seen in a 2013 Anne Arundel Police Department booking photo. (Social media via Reuters)

Authorities said earlier the assailant entered the building and "looked for his victims." He threw smoke grenades and fired a shotgun, according to Anne Arundel County acting police chief William Krampf.

"This person was prepared today to come in, this person was prepared to shoot people. His intent was to cause harm," Krampf said.

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that Ramos filed a defamation suit against the paper in 2012. 

A Twitter page bearing Ramos's name says he created the account to "defend" himself. 

"Now I'm suing the sh-t out of half of AA County and making corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities," it says. 

At a media briefing Thursday evening police identified the slain victims as: Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, Robert Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman and John McNamara.

Winters was the special publications editor. McNamara was a writer. Fischman was editorial page editor. Smith was a sales assistant. Hiaasen was an assistant editor and columnist.

Brother of noted author a victim

Officials said earlier that the suspect, who was arrested at the scene, was being interrogated but had revealed little. 

"The shooter has not been very forthcoming, so we don't have any information yet on motive," said Anne Arundel County executive Steve Schuh.

Police secure the scene after Thursday's shooting, which killed five people. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

"To my knowledge, there was no verbal aspect to the incident where he declared his motives or anything else, so at this point we just don't know."

He was arrested without an exchange of gunfire with officers, according to police spokesperson Lt. Ryan Frashure. 

At least two hospitals said they received three patients, two of them with minor injuries not caused by gunshots.

Hiaasen was the brother of noted author Carl Hiaasen, who said on Facebook he is "devastated and heartsick." 

He lauded his brother as "one of the most gentle and funny people I've ever known" who had a "gifted career as a journalist."

The Miami Herald reported that Hiaasen was a warm and witty voice in the media world. He was 59 and had worked as a columnist and editor for the newspaper for several years, but kept up lifelong connections to Florida, where he grew up and worked previously for the Palm Beach Post.

'Like a war zone'

A reporter at the Capital Gazette tweeted earlier that a single gunman fired into the newsroom and shot multiple employees. Phil Davis, who covers courts and crime for the newspaper, wrote that the shooter fired through a glass door into the office.

"A single shooter shot multiple people at my office, some of whom are dead," he tweeted.

"There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you're under your desk and then hear the gunman reload," he added. 

The 888 Bestgate Rd. building that houses the Capital Gazette newspaper is seen on Thursday. (Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press)

In an interview with the Capital Gazette's online site, Davis said it "was like a war zone" inside the offices — a situation that would be "hard to describe for a while."

"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."

Davis told the paper he and others were still hiding under their desks when the shooter stopped firing. "I don't know why. I don't know why he stopped," he said.

Reporter Selene San Felice told CNN she was at her desk when she heard the shooting and ran with some others to a back door only to find it locked. She said she saw a colleague steps away as he was shot but didn't get a view of the shooter as she sought to hide.

"I heard footsteps a couple of times… I was breathing really loud and was trying not to, but I couldn't be quiet," she added. Having gone to school in Florida, she recalled accounts of a gunman's June 2016 mass shooting attack on Orlando's gay nightclub Pulse and how terrified people crouching inside had texted loved ones. Dozens were killed there.

"And there I was sitting under a desk, texting my parents and telling them I loved them," she said.

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said the community is grieving the attack on their community paper.

"These are the guys that come to city council meetings, have to listen to boring politicians and sit there," Buckley said. "They don't make a lot of money. It's just immoral that their lives should be in danger."

About 170 people in all were escorted out and away from the building by officers as a multitude of police cars and other emergency vehicles arrived on the scene.

On TV reports, people could be seen leaving the building with their hands up, as police officers urged them to depart through a parking lot and officers converged on the building.

A gas station employee near the shooting scene described a flood of police activity in the area as he sat tight inside his still-open workplace.

A newspaper stand selling the Capital Gazette is seen in Annapolis, Md., on Thursday. (Zach Gibson/AFP/Getty Images)

In a phone interview, Carlos Wallace, who works just down the street from the newspaper's offices, estimated that "dozens of dozens" of law enforcement vehicles and ambulances had raced to the scene with sirens blaring.

"The road is blocked off real good. It's like dozens of dozens of emergency vehicles, police cars of all types, explosive vehicles, battering ram vehicles, all kinds of stuff," Wallace said Thursday afternoon.

'Violence is never tolerated'

Journalists at the Capital Gazette are working to cover the shooting and put out Friday's paper.

Photojournalist Joshua McKerrow tweeted Thursday that he wasn't there when the shooting broke out, but he headed to the scene.

McKerrow said he is working to cover the story with two Capital Gazette reporters and with assistance from colleagues at the Baltimore Sun, which is owned by the same company.

Reporter Chase Cook tweeted: "I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow."

High school sports editor Bob Hough said he and a colleague were working on the sports section from his home Thursday evening.

On TV reports, people could be seen leaving the building with their hands up, as police officers urged them to depart through a parking lot and officers converged on the building. (WJLA via AP)

Hough, who wasn't at the office during the shooting, said he expects to publish a full section.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued a statement saying he was "absolutely devastated" by the shooting. 

At the White House, spokesperson Lindsay Walters said: "There is no room for violence, and we stick by that. Violence is never tolerated in any form, no matter whom it is against."

U.S. President Donald Trump had been briefed on the shooting, and tweeted that his "thoughts and prayers" are with the victims and their families.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that the attack was "devastating."

New York police sent counterterrorism teams to news organizations around the city in a move authorities said was a precaution, not prompted by any specific threat. Police could be seen outside the New York Times, ABC News and Fox News early in the evening.