Newsroom shooting suspect aimed to kill 'every person present' at Maryland newspaper

2018-07-04 09:07

A man charged with gunning down five people at a Maryland newspaper sent three letters on the day of the attack, police said, including one that said he was on his way to the Capital Gazette newsroom with the aim "of killing every person present".

Sergeant Jacklyn Davis, a spokesperson for Anne Arundel County police, said the letters were received on Monday. They were mailed to an attorney for The Capital newspaper, a retired judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and a Baltimore judge.

The letter Jarrod Ramos sent to the Annapolis newspaper's Baltimore-based lawyer was written to resemble a legal motion for reconsideration of his unsuccessful 2012 defamation lawsuit against the paper, a columnist and then-publisher Tom Marquardt.

Marquardt shared a copy of the letter with The Associated Press.

"If this is how the Maryland Judiciary operates, the law now means nothing," Ramos wrote. He quoted a description of the purpose of a defamation suit, saying it was intended for a defamed person to "resort to the courts for relief instead of wreaking his own vengeance".

"'That' is how your judiciary operates, you were too cowardly to confront those lies, and this is your receipt," Ramos wrote.

'YOU should have died'

He signed it under the chilling statement: "I told you so." Below that, he wrote that he was going to the newspaper's office "with the objective of killing every person present".

In a letter attached to what appeared to be the faux court filing, he also directly addressed retired special appeals court judge Charles Moylan, who ruled against Ramos in his defamation case. Ramos sued the paper after pleading guilty to harassing a high school classmate.

"Welcome, Mr. Moylan, to your unexpected legacy: YOU should have died," he wrote. He signed it: "Friends forever, Jarrod W. Ramos."

Ramos also sent a document to Maryland's highest court, and it has been sealed at the request of prosecutors.

Wes Adams, Anne Arundel County state's attorney, asked the Court of Appeals on Wednesday to seal the pleading that Ramos filed on the day of the shooting.

In his motion to seal, Adams wrote: "the pleading creates direct evidence of petitioner's involvement" in the allegations currently under investigation.

It was unclear whether the sealed document was the same as the one sent to Moylan.

A spokesperson for Adams did not immediately return a query seeking comment about the sealed document. Moylan could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.

'Very powerful' evidence

Douglas Colbert, a University of Maryland law professor, described the letters as "very powerful" evidence of intent that the state will make full use of at trial. Colbert said as long as it's established in court that Ramos authored the letters, they will be used to show his "planning and deliberate actions" on the day of the attack.

The apparent admissions by the defendant will weaken a defence lawyer's strategy of suggesting that he was "suffering from a mental disease or defect" that would impair his ability to understand the consequences of his actions, Colbert said.

Ramos, 38, has a well-documented history of harassing the paper's journalists. The defamation suit was thrown out as groundless, and he often railed against current and former Capital staff in profanity-laced tweets. Police found him hiding under a desk after Thursday's attack and jailed him on five counts of first-degree murder.

At a memorial service on Monday night for one of those killed, editor Rob Hiassen, Marquardt said he once slept with a baseball bat by his bed because he was so worried about Ramos. He also said that they "stepped up security" at the newspaper years ago, and posted Ramos' photo around the office.

"But then he went dormant for about two years and we thought the problem has been solved. Apparently, it was just building up steam," he said.

The mourning in Annapolis continued on Tuesday, marked by a lowering of US flags to honour the victims. President Donald Trump ordered flags flown at half-staff on federal property through sunset.

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said on Monday that he was told initially that his request to lower the flags had been denied. Trump has repeatedly called journalists the "enemy of the people". According to Buckley, the White House said on Tuesday that Trump ordered the flags lowered as soon as he learned of the mayor's request.

Hiaasen was remembered in stories, poems, prayers and songs at the "celebration of life" ceremony on Monday evening. He was fatally shot last week at the Capital Gazette along with colleagues Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.

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