Suspect in Capital Gazette shooting had sued paper for defamation

Authorities say a man who had a long-running feud with an Annapolis, Maryland newspaper blasted his way through its newsroom with a shotgun, killing at least five people in one of the deadliest attacks recorded on a US media outlet.
Jarrod Ramos, as seen in this 2013 Anne Arundel Police Department booking photo obtained from social media. He is suspected of killing five people at the offices of the Capital Gazette newspaper office, on June 28, 2018.
Jarrod Ramos, as seen in this 2013 Anne Arundel Police Department booking photo obtained from social media. He is suspected of killing five people at the offices of the Capital Gazette newspaper office, on June 28, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND (WASHINGTON POST) - The man suspected of killing five people in or near the offices of the Capital Gazette newspaper had sued the paper for defamation and lost, and an Anne Arundel County police official said, "It was quite obvious this individual had a vendetta against the Capital newspaper."

The alleged shooter was identified in a bulletin e-mailed to Maryland law enforcement officials as Jarrod Ramos, 38, of Laurel, Maryland.

He has worked at the federal Bureau of Labour Statistics, according to a lawyer who represented him in 2011, but it could not be confirmed on Thursday (June 28) whether he still worked there.

Ramos lives in an apartment near Route 1, in a cluster of three-storey brick buildings about 35 minutes from the Capital Gazette offices. Police were preparing to serve a search warrant there on Thursday night, and the building was evacuated.

Police said Ramos was initially uncooperative and was not carrying any identification, so there was a delay in identifying him.

Ramos seemed to carry a grudge for years against the newspaper after he was the subject of a column describing how he harassed a former classmate from Arundel High School online, first through Facebook and then through e-mails.

Ramos pleaded guilty in July 2011 to harassment.

In a column written by Mr Eric Hartley several days later, the victim described how Ramos had stalked her online and perhaps caused her to lose her job.

Ramos then apparently created a website which detailed his complaints against Mr Hartley and the newspaper, and noted that his conviction had been reduced to probation four months later.

"I certainly did a bad thing," the website states, "but don't shun me for how it was portrayed by this newspaper."

In 2012, Ramos sued Mr Hartley, his editor and the Capital Gazette for defamation in Prince George's County District Court. A hearing was held in March 2013, and a judge threw the case out.

 
 
 
 
 

Ramos appealed the ruling, and that was also rejected in September 2015 by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

"He is aggrieved because the story was sympathetic toward the harassment victim and was not equally understanding of the harassment perpetrator," Judge Charles Moylan Jr wrote.

"The appellant wanted equal coverage of his side of the story. He wanted a chance to put the victim in a bad light, in order to justify and explain why he did what he did. That, however, is not the function of defamation law."

The day after the ruling, Ramos tweeted, "F-- you, leave me alone," with a link to the opinion by Judge Moylan.

On Thursday, just minutes before he allegedly opened fire at the Capital Gazette's offices, he again tweeted, "F-- you, leave me alone," with a link to a Twitter account critical of Judge Moylan.

Ramos' profile photo on Twitter is a photo of Mr Hartley. Mr Hartley did not respond to requests for comment.

Before Thursday, Ramos had not tweeted since January 2016.

Ramos' lawyer in the harassment case, Mr Christopher Drewniak, could not be reached for comment.

Ramos' harassment of his online victim apparently continued. Maryland court records show that in October 2014, a restraining order was entered against him, ordering him not to have contact with the woman.

Ramos pursued appeals of that order until 2016, but did not prevail.

Anne Arundel Deputy Police Chief William Krampf said that the Capital Gazette had received threats through social media earlier in the day, but the police were not aware of the threats until after the shooting.

He declined to describe their content or whether they were from Ramos.