WASHINGTON — The man accused of killing five people at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, Thursday barricaded an exit in an effort to trap victims, officials said Friday.
“The fellow was there to kill as many people as he could kill,” Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare said Friday.
Police said Friday that Jarrod W. Ramos, 38, blasted into the Annapolis newsroom with a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun legally purchased a year or so ago.
Wes Adams, the state’s attorney for Anne Arundel County, said during a Friday bail hearing that Ramos barricaded the back entrance before coming to the front entrance, shooting out the front glass door and shooting into the newsroom.
Adams described it as an orchestrated plan to make sure no one could get out. He added that one of the victims tried to get out the back door, but couldn’t, and was killed. Ramos carried smoke grenades during the attack, police said.
Five people, all employees of the Capital Gazette, died in the shooting. Police released the names of two Gazette employees Friday, Janel Cooley and Rachael Pacella, who were injured in the attack but have since been released from the hospital.
Police said officers were on the scene within two minutes of the first call about the shooting, Altomare said. Ramos was arrested by officers who found him hiding under a desk.
Altomare said more than 300 officers from federal and state enforcement agencies descended on the scene of the shooting. There were no shots fired by law enforcement during the arrest.
Ramos was first identified by law enforcement through a facial recognition tool called the Maryland Image Repository System.
“We would have been much longer in identifying him and being able to push forward in the investigation without that system,” Altomare said. “It was a huge win for us last night and thus for the citizens of Anne Arundel County.”
Law enforcement obtained a search warrant for Ramos’ Laurel apartment in the 400 block of Armstrong Court.
Officers found evidence at the home indicating that he was planning a shooting at the Gazette and that he acted alone, Altomare said. Police found his car close to the crime scene.
Officials outside the courtroom said that when the suspect appeared for his first appearance last night around 1:30 a.m., the judge asked if he wanted a lawyer. Ramos responded “I’m not going to cooperate.”
Ramos has had a history with the Anne Arundel police, and was investigated as part of a 2013 incident involving threatening online comments.
In 2013 Detective Michael Praley reviewed Twitter posts from Ramos. He held a conference call with former correspondent Eric Hartley, the Capitol Gazette’s former editor Pat Richardson and the paper’s attorney Robert Douglas.
They discussed Ramos’ criminal history, pending case and Twitter account, the report said. Ramos had not registered any firearms in the state of Maryland at that time.
“Ramos makes mention of blood in the water, journalist hell, hit man, open season, glad there won’t be murderous rampage, murder career and paper,” the report said. “All were fringe comments associated with events occurring in the paper and are reflected in his Twitter.”
The account had no followers, and was described in the report as ranting.
It also said that someone, whose name is redacted, was harassed by Ramos via letter, email and social media by Facebook. They were not approached physically, the report said.
The Capital Gazette decided to not press charges in 2013.
“It was described as putting a stick in a beehive which the Capital Newspaper representatives do not wish to do,” the report said.
Ramos once pleaded guilty to harassment after sending progressively more threatening emails in late 2009 or early 2010 to a former high school classmate, according to Associated Press reports.
Ramos is now charged with five counts of first-degree murder and could face life in prison. He was ordered held without bond Friday morning.
Gov. Larry Hogan ordered the Maryland State Flag be lowered to half-staff until Monday “as a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless act of violence.”
Two vigils are planned Friday to remember the victims.
Area clergy are planning a prayer vigil beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Westfield Annapolis Mall Parking Lot in front of Pottery Barn.
A second candlelight vigil is planned for 8 p.m. at Lawyers Mall in downtown Annapolis. Organizers told attendees in a Facebook post to arrive between 7:45 and 8 p.m. so they could light candles and walk down both sides of Main Street to Susan Campbell Park.