Annapolis

As I wrote yesterday, it was inevitable this was going to happen someday.

The Annapolis (Md.) Capital shooting was reported on by its owners, the Baltimore Sun:

A gunman blasted his way into the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis with a shotgun Thursday afternoon, killing five people, authorities said.

Journalists dived under their desks and pleaded for help on social media. One reporter described the scene as a “war zone.” A photographer said he jumped over a dead colleague and fled for his life.

The victims were identified as Rob Hiaasen, 59, a former feature writer for The Baltimore Sun who joined the Capital Gazette in 2010 as an assistant editor and columnist; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who headed special publications; Gerald Fischman, 61, the editorial page editor; John McNamara, 56, a staff writer who had covered high school, college and professional sports for decades; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant hired in November.

Two others were injured in the attack that began about 2:40 p.m. at the Capital Gazette offices at 888 Bestgate Road in Annapolis.

Police took a suspect into custody soon after the shootings. He was identified as Jarrod W. Ramos, a 38-year-old Laurel man with a long-standing grudge against the paper. …

“This was a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette,” said Anne Arundel County Deputy Police Chief William Krampf. “This person was prepared today to come in. He was prepared to shoot people.” …

Ramos’ dispute with the Capital Gazette began in July 2011 when a columnist wrote about a criminal harassment case against him. He brought a defamation suit against the columnist and the organization’s editor and publisher. A court ruled in the Capital Gazette’s favor, and an appeals court upheld the ruling.

Neither the columnist, Eric Hartley, nor the editor and publisher, Thomas Marquardt, are still employed by the Capital Gazette. They were not present during the shootings.

Police said the suspect used “smoke grenades” in the attack. They said 170 people were inside at the time.

The Capital Gazette is owned by The Baltimore Sun.

Phil Davis, a Capital crime reporter who was in the building at the time of the shooting, said multiple people were shot as he and others hid under their desks. He said there was a single male gunman.

“Gunman shot through the glass door to the office and opened fire on multiple employees,” he wrote on Twitter. “Can’t say much more and don’t want to declare anyone dead, but it’s bad.”

“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload.” …

Davis later told The Sun it “was like a war zone” — a scene 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 said he and others were hiding under their desks when the shooter stopped firing. Then police arrived and surrounded the shooter.

Photographer Paul Gillespie had finished editing photos from one assignment and was preparing for the next when he heard shots behind him and the newsroom’s glass doors shatter.

He heard another shot, he said, dived under a co-worker’s desk “and curled up as small as I could.”

“I dove under that desk as fast as I could, and by the grace of God, he didn’t look over there,” he said. “I was curled up, trying not to breathe, trying not to make a sound, and he shot people all around me.”

Gillespie said he heard one colleague scream “No!,” then a shot. Then another colleague’s voice, and another shot. He could hear the gunman approaching his hiding place.

“I kept thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to die. I can’t believe this.’ ” Gillespie said.

But the gunman passed him, he said, and continued to shoot. Eventually, there was a lull in the shots. Gillespie stood and ran for the exit, through the shattered glass, jumping over the body of a colleague he believed was dead as another shot rang out in his direction.

He ran to a nearby bank and screamed for people to call the cops.

“I feel like I should be helping to cover it,” he said, “but I’m a mess.”

Authorities said police responded to the scene within a minute of the shooting.

The injured employees were identified as Rachael Pacella, a reporter who covers education and the Naval Academy, and Janel Cooley, a sales representative who covers downtown Annapolis. Both were treated and released. …

Josh McKerrow, a Capital Gazette photographer for 14 years, started his day Thursday covering Induction Day at the Naval Academy at sunrise. He was driving home to celebrate his daughter’s birthday when Capital editor Rick Hutzell called.

“He said he’d heard there had been a shooting, and he couldn’t get in touch with anyone in the newsroom,” McKerrow said.

Then he heard sirens.

“My heart sank,” McKerrow said. “I knew.” …

Jimmy DeButts, an editor, wrote on Twitter that he was “devastated and heartbroken.”

He praised his colleagues’ work.

“There are no 40-hour weeks, no big paydays — just a passion for telling stories from our community,” DeButts wrote. “We keep doing more with less. We find ways to cover high school sports, breaking news, tax hikes, school budgets & local entertainment. We are there in times of tragedy. We do our best to share the stories of people, those who make our community better. Please understand, we do all this to serve our community.” …

The Capital Gazette is one of 30 tenants in the building. Five others share the first floor with The Capital. They include accountants, lawyers, financial and medical offices. The newspaper has been in the building since 2015, according to CoStar, a real estate information company. They have 5,000 square feet of offices.

Aaron Smith and Randall Fisher of the Fisher Law Office were on the fourth floor at the time of the shooting, but they didn’t hear or see anything. They learned of the assault when a colleague texted Smith.

They flipped a desk over in front of the door to the office and stayed there until SWAT officers arrived. They then walked out of the building with their hands on their heads, like everyone else in the building, Fisher said.

Bethany Clasing, who works on the second floor, said she heard a single gunshot. Then police yelled: “Get down! Get down! Don’t move!”

Rayne Foster of Frost and Associates LLC said a plainclothes officer entered her fourth-floor office suite and told the receptionist to lock the doors because there was an active shooter. She quickly gathered people together.

Some employees removed high heels to prepare to flee the building. Others hid. One pulled two handguns out of his desk drawer for self-defense.

The shooter chose a target as likely to be unarmed as a school. Reporters are notoriously incorrect about firearms because reporters are unfamiliar with firearms. In my entire career I have known no one in the media who is a CCW carrier, and I would bet I could use two hands to count the number of journalists who own firearms even for hunting.

More on the shooter from the Sun:

In 2012, Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit against the paper and a columnist over a July 2011 article that covered a criminal harassment charge against him.

He brought the suit against then-columnist Eric Hartley, naming Capital Gazette Communications and Thomas Marquardt, the paper’s former editor and publisher, as defendants.

Throughout my career I have heard from people displeased with their presence in the publication. (As well as people displeased with their absence from the publication, for different reasons.) They never grasp that (1) police and court records are by state law open records (except for juvenile offenders), and (2) their problems with my writing, unless something is mistaken, are something to take up with the police or the court system. I’ve gotten threats of lawsuits, and I’ve gotten threats of cancellations of subscriptions or advertising, sometimes carried out. I’ve also gotten physical threats, though never delivered in person, and never carried out.

Perhaps this could be credited to the trauma, or perhaps she’s always this way, but, reports the Huffington Post via Yahoo:

A shaken journalist who survived Thursday’s deadly attack at The Capital Gazette newspaper says she “couldn’t give a fuck” about thoughts and prayers if “there’s nothing else.” …

In an interview with CNN on Thursday night, Capital Gazette writer Selene San Felice told Anderson Cooper what it was like to hide under her desk while the gunman opened fire. She also said the attack had left the newsroom “shaken,” but she was not interested in politicians’ well-worn platitudes.

“I’ve heard that President Trump sent his prayers. I’m not trying to make this political, right? But we need more than prayers. I appreciate the prayers. I was praying the entire time I was [hiding] under that desk. I want your prayers but I want something else,” San Felice said.

“I’m going to need more than a couple days of news coverage and some thoughts and prayers because our whole lives have been shattered,” she added. “Thanks for your prayers, but I couldn’t give a fuck about them if there’s nothing else.”

Although CNN didn’t bleep San Felice’s comments, Cooper warned viewers that the interview contained strong language.

San Felice also described feeling deja vu because she had covered the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Forty-nine people died in that attack.

“I remember being so upset hearing about the victims who were texting their families,” she said. “And there I was sitting under a desk texting my parents,  telling them that I love them.”

Better comments come from Dave Barry:

Five newspaper people were killed yesterday at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis. I can’t imagine how brutal that must be for the families. I met one of the victims, Rob Hiaasen, a few times; he was the brother of my close friend Carl Hiaasen. From all accounts Rob was a fine journalist and a wonderful man. My heart aches for his family, for all the families.

My heart also aches, on this sad day, for the larger family of journalists, especially newspaper journalists. It’s a family of which I still consider myself a member. I started in this business in 1971, as a rookie reporter at the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa., for (if I recall correctly) $93 a week. Since then most of my friends have been newspaper people. No offense to any other profession, but these are, pound for pound, the smartest, funniest, most interested and most interesting people there are. They love what they do, and most of them do it for lousy pay, at a time when the economic situation of newspapers is precarious, and layoffs are common.

It’s also a time when the news media are under attack — for being biased, for being elitist and out of touch with ordinary Americans, for not caring about the nation. And I’ll grant that in some cases, some of these criticisms are valid. There are cable-TV “news” operations openly devoted to either propping up or tearing down Donald Trump. There are newspaper journalists who seem far more interested in getting on TV, and jacking up their Twitter numbers, than being fair or accurate. There are incompetent, dishonest people in this business, as in any business.

But these people are a minority — I think a tiny minority — of news people, especially of newspaper people. There are over 1,000 daily newspapers in the United States, most of them covering smaller markets, like Annapolis or West Chester. The people working for these newspapers aren’t seeking fame, and they aren’t pushing political agendas. They’re covering the communities they live in — the city councils, the police and fire departments, the courts, the school boards, the high-school sports teams, the snake that some homeowner found in a toilet. These newspaper people work hard, in relative obscurity, for (it bears repeating) lousy pay. Sometimes, because of the stories they write, they face hostility; sometimes — this happens to many reporters; it happened to me — they are threatened.

But the news people I know are still passionate about what they do, and they do it remarkably well. And here’s the corny-but-true part: They do it for you. Every time they write a story, they’re hoping you’ll read it, maybe learn something new, maybe smile, maybe get mad and want to do something.

That’s what the people were doing at the Capital Gazette when they were shot. And the survivors, God bless them, put out a paper the next day. Because that’s what we do in this business.

So criticize us all you want; when we screw up, feel free to call us on it.

But don’t say we don’t care.

This isn’t the first time violence has been committed against journalists. Arizona Republic reporter Don Bowles was rewarded for his investigative reporting on organized crime with a car bomb that killed him in 1976. The worldwide record of violence against journalists, including murder, is far more extensive — 33 so far this year, after 46 in 2017 and 73 in 2015.

Nor will it be the last time, for reasons that have nothing to do with what Donald Trump or anyone else says about journalists. In this world disputes and disagreements increasingly get solved with violence, regardless of the availability of weapons. There are people running around who, though they don’t consider themselves mentally ill and may not be considered legally mentally ill, are what we used to call “deranged,” “crazy” or “disturbed,” to use subjective non-scientific terms. I’m not sure what to do about that in a country that supposedly supports individual constitutional rights.

 

 

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