Police respond to a shooting on June 28, 2018 in Annapolis, Maryland. (Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Several people have been killed after a gunman opened fire in what police described as a "targeted attack" at the Capital Gazette newspaper office in Annapolis, according to officials.
Anne Arundel County police said the shooting left five people dead while two others were hospitalized with what are believed to be superficial injuries, possibly from broken glass caused from the gunfire. The initial calls about the shooting came in at around 2:35 p.m. Thursday.
Police identified the victims killed as Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman and John McNamara. Four of them were journalists while the fifth victim was a sales assistant at the Capital Gazette.
Police said the gunman was taken into custody, but he has not been officially identified by officials. According to Anne Arundel County Police Deputy Chief William Krampf, the suspect is a white male in his late 30s who resides in Maryland. Authorities were working to secure his residence and warrants were being prepared to search his home Thursday night.
However, a law enforcement official has told the Associated Press that the suspect has been identified as Jarrod W. Ramos.
The Baltimore Sun, which owns the Capital Gazette, was providing coverage of the shooting at the newspaper for the Capital Gazette. According to law enforcement sources, the newspaper reported Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit against the Capital Gazette and a columnist in 2012, which was dismissed. Ramos' lawsuit was over the newspaper's story about a criminal harassment case against him.
A U.S. official told the Associated Press that the suspect was identified by using facial recognition technology after he damaged his fingers in an effort to prevent investigators from quickly identifying him from his fingerprints. However, Anne Arundel County police said during a Thursday evening news conference that they could not confirm that information.
Police and ATF agents were seen at the Dona Apartments in Laurel, Maryland Thursday night where Ramos is believed to have lived.
Police said when the shooter first entered the building on Bestgate Road Thursday afternoon, he was armed with a shotgun and used smoke grenade canisters when he came in.
Phil Davis, a courts and crime reporter for the Capital Gazette, reported that “a single shooter shot multiple people at my office, some of whom are dead.”
Davis also tweeted that a “gunman shot through the glass door to the office and opened fire on multiple employees.”
Video captured people leaving the building with their hands in the air as law enforcement swarmed the area. Officers rushed to the scene, arriving in less than 60 seconds and immediately engaged the shooter, according to officials. Authorities said the suspect did not exchange gunfire with officers when he was taken into custody.
The ATF in Baltimore confirmed it responded to the scene. Authorities said a reunification location was being established at the Lord & Taylor at Westfield Annapolis Mall.
Deputy Chief Krampf said the shooting happened after threats were made to the newspaper on social media. Investigators were working to confirm if the threats are connected to the suspect.
Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted that he is "Absolutely devastated to learn of this tragedy in Annapolis. I am in contact with County Executive Steve Schuh, and @MDSP is on the scene assisting @AACOPD. Please, heed all warnings and stay away from the area. Praying for those at the scene and for our community."
President Donald Trump tweeted that he had been briefed on the shooting. He said his "thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families" and thanked first responders.
The newspaper is part of Capital Gazette Communications, which also publishes the Maryland Gazette and CapitalGazette.com.
Despite the tragic shooting, the Capital Gazette said it was putting out a paper on Friday. On Twitter early Friday morning, the newspaper tweeted what its front page would look like.
In an interview with The Capital Gazette's online site, Davis said it "was like a war zone" inside the newspaper's 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 gunman stopped firing.
"I don't know why. I don't know why he stopped," he said.
Reporter Selene San Felice told the CNN broadcast outlet 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 who was shot. But she didn't see the shooter as she tried 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 accounts of terrified people crouching inside as they texted families amid fears for their lives. 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 the 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."
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.
The Associated Press Media Editors have promised to help Capital Gazette journalists as they recover. An APME statement called on newspapers nationwide to help the paper and its journalists so they can continue to cover their community and fight for freedom of the press.
Information from the Associated Press used in this report.