Alleged Capital Gazette Gunman Apparently Trapped Victims In Newsroom

Jun 29, 2018
Originally published on June 29, 2018 7:57 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now to the latest news on the ongoing investigation of yesterday's deadly shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md. Five staff members are dead. The suspect is being held without bond. Intern Anthony Messenger was in the newsroom when the shooter stormed in in the early afternoon. And in an interview with NBC's "Today" show this morning, Messenger describes the scene.

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ANTHONY MESSENGER: Initially, I thought it was fireworks. I heard a pop, and I turned and looked over my shoulder toward the front of the room, toward the entrance. I saw that the glass doors that open up into our office were blown out. And then I heard a second pop. I ran toward the back exit of the office.

CORNISH: Messenger and others hid under desks and pled for help on social media and quietly called 911. NPR's Jeff Brady is in Annapolis, where he's following the investigation into this shooting. And, Jeff, what more can you tell us about what authorities have learned?

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: One bit of new information came from the Anne Arundel County state's attorney Wes Adams. He's the local prosecutor. As part of his argument to a judge that the suspect in this case - his name is Jarrod Warren Ramos - that he should be held in jail without bond, Adams told the judge that this was a coordinated attack, a targeted attack, and that the suspect took steps to hurt as many people as possible. Here's how Adams says he backed up that argument before the judge.

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WES ADAMS: There were two entrances to the offices in which this attack occurred. The rear door was barricaded. Mr. Ramos then entered into the front door and worked his way through the office, shooting victims as he walked through the office. There was one victim that had attempted to escape through the back door and was shot at that point.

BRADY: Police say the suspect is not cooperating with the investigation. They even had to use Maryland's facial recognition software to figure out who he is.

CORNISH: So if they aren't getting cooperation from the suspect, how is this affecting the case?

BRADY: They have to follow other leads to figure out what happened. Investigators - they did find the suspect's car near the Capital Gazette office, so they searched that, but we don't know what they found in there. They've also searched his apartment. Police say they found evidence there that shows the suspect planned the attack, but they won't be more specific than that. Authorities say that the suspect used a 12 gauge pump-action shotgun which was legally purchased about a year or so ago. Those guns aren't (inaudible) under Maryland law, just under federal law.

And we're learning more about the police response. It was very quick, within a couple of minutes. And the police chief says officers did not fire any shots during the process of taking the suspect into custody. They say it's clear the suspect acted alone, and they don't think there's any more danger now that he's in custody.

CORNISH: Some personal history that's come out - the suspected shooter had filed a defamation suit against the Capital Gazette for coverage in 2011 of his conviction in a criminal harassment case. I understand that lawsuit was dismissed. And on the suspect's Twitter feed, he was critical of journalists. What new information have we learned about this part of the story?

BRADY: The chief of police in Anne Arundel County, Timothy Altomare, says in May of 2013 the suspect made threatening comments online directed against the Capital Gazette. Chief Altomare says detectives spoke to the legal counsel at the Capital Gazette and held a conference call with several members of the staff.

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POLICE CHIEF TIMOTHY ALTOMARE: On that conference call, it was discussed that the Capital Gazette did not wish to pursue criminal charges. There was a fear that doing so would exacerbate an already flammable situation.

BRADY: We haven't been able to reach the folks at the Capital Gazette to confirm this or get a reaction to it.

CORNISH: So how are people in Annapolis responding to this attack on their community paper?

BRADY: There's a community vigil tonight. It's happening this evening. And then near the office building where the shooting happened, people are of course dropping off flowers. I've seen notes. Some looked like little thank-you cards addressed to the Capital Gazette, sympathy cards. Around town, I've heard people say that this is a newspaper they have a lot of respect for mostly because of its coverage of local politics and sports.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Jeff Brady in Annapolis. Jeff, thank you.

BRADY: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.