‘I was just shaking’: As Capital Gazette shooting unfolds, woman shares evacuation story

WASHINGTON — On what was supposed to be a quiet Thursday afternoon,  Jocelyn Gebhardt said she and her co-worker kept hearing loud noises outside their office in the 888 Bestgate Road building. They were on the fourth floor; the first floor houses the Capital Gazette office, where five people died after a gunman opened fire.

“We kept hearing sirens,” Gebhardt said. She worked at Standard Insurance Company, and that day, she and her co-worker were the only two in an office of usually around eight to 10 people.

They weren’t sure what all the noise was about, but when they looked out the conference room window, they saw police cars scattered outside. Officers were hiding behind cars, Gebhardt said, and she saw a girl sitting on the sidewalk with her head in her hands.

Gebhardt thought, perhaps, this was the scene of the end of a high-speed chase.

But then, she saw a SWAT team running toward the building with “guns raised.”

“It’s our building; there’s something going on inside,” she said.

Jocelyn Gebhardt works on the fourth floor of 888 Bestgate Road. She took to social media to share what was going on as a gunman opened fire on the first floor in the Capital Gazette office. (Courtesy Jocelyn Gebhardt)

Gebhardt and her co-worker went to hide in the back of the office. And, as she noticed the see-through, glass doors in the office, she said, “All I kept thinking was, they’re just going to get in. They’re going to shoot.”

She said she tried calling 911 but that she couldn’t get through because all the operators were busy, likely due to the high call volume. Her co-worker got on Twitter and found out there was an active shooter in their building at 888 Bestgate Road.

“At that point, we knew. We got to get out.”

Being several floors above the Capital Gazette office, Gebhardt said she didn’t hear any gunshots or people screaming. But, she said, “We were just watching it outside kind of unravel.”

As she and her co-worker tried to figure out a way to get out of the building, she said she head the front door to the office click open. Her co-worker told her to get under his desk and stay quiet.

“At that point, I thought, ‘This is it. Today’s the day,'” she said, a grim laugh punctuating her sentence.

But then, seconds later, she said she heard people saying, “Room One clear, Room Two clear,” and at that point, she knew it was police.

Gebhardt said that since they couldn’t see her and her co-worker, she called out, “Hello! There’s two of us back here! We’re innocent, we’re not the shooter!” She said she peeked her head out and saw five SWAT team members in the hallway with their guns raised, pointed at her.

“They said, ‘Hands up, get up against the wall,'” she said. They were going to finish clearing the office, Gerbhardt recounted, a slight quiver to her voice.

“I didn’t cry, but I was just shaking,” Gerbhardt said. “My heart was running.”

The SWAT team members asked if there was a back door to their office. She said that there was and pointed it out. Then, she said, they told her and her co-worker to get up against the wall and follow one of the officers out as quickly as possible.

Shootings seem so frequent now, as if they’re every month, Gerbhardt said. But when she found her self evacuating her office because of an active shooter, she said, “You always think, ‘That won’t happen to me.’ Until you’re in it and you realize what’s happening. Then, you’re like, ‘Oh my god.'”

“It didn’t sink in until after my friend picked me up and after we were able to leave where we were, where I said, ‘I was part of a mass shooting today,'” she said. “And when I said that, I started to cry, because it was like, that’s when I think it finally struck me that I’ll tell my kids about this, I’ll read about this in the history books. I’ll never forget June 28.”

Although Gerbhardt doesn’t personally know anyone who works at the Capital Gazette, she has a former co-worker who works in the office across the hall from the news outlet.

“My first thought was, is he OK? Did he get out?”

But, when she saw the pictures of the five victims who were killed Thursday, she said, “I’ve seen those people just in passing. I’ve seen them walking in and out of the building. It’s surreal; it’s an eerie feeling that that was them.”

Gebhardt mentioned that in terms of security in the building, key cards are needed to enter each office, but anyone can walk in through the main front door or side door. There aren’t any security personnel, and the elevator is accessible without a key fob, she said.

As the investigation continues into Thursday’s attack on the Capital Gazette, Gebhardt won’t need to return to 888 Bestgate Road anytime soon since she said she’ll be working from home.

“My work has already told me they’re sending me a laptop. I can work from home however long I want. But, it is going to be hard when I do eventually go back,” she said.

Jarrod W. Ramos, 38, of Laurel, Maryland, was charged with five counts of first-degree murder for his attack on the Capital Gazette and could face life in prison. On Friday morning, he was ordered held without bond.

When Gebhardt learned that the suspected shooter had barricaded the back door during his attack, she said, “That’s the back door that I go in and out of everyday. So, it’s just little things like that where it’s going to be — it’s going to be difficult.”

WTOP’s Chris Cioffi contributed to this report. 

Teta Alim

Teta Alim is a Digital Editor at WTOP. Teta's interest in journalism started in music and moved to digital media.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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