ANNAPOLIS, Md. – 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 emailed to Maryland law enforcement officials as Jarrod Ramos, 38, of Laurel, Maryland. He has worked at the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and has a degree in computer engineering, according to a lawyer who represented him in 2011, but it could not be confirmed Thursday whether he still worked there.
Ramos lives in an apartment near Route 1, in a cluster of three-story brick buildings about 35 minutes from the Capital Gazette offices. Police were preparing to serve a search warrant there 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.
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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 emails. Ramos pleaded guilty in July 2011 to harassment. In a column written by 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 that detailed his complaints against 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 Hartley, the paper’s editor, Tom Marquardt, and the Capital Gazette for defamation in Prince George’s County District Court. Marquardt said he and Hartley began getting threats from Ramos on Twitter.
In one post, Ramos wrote that he would “enjoy seeing @capgaznews cease publication, but it would be nicer to see Hartley and Marquardt cease breathing.”
In an interview, Marquardt said he felt threatened enough by Ramos’ posts to ask Anne Arundel County police to look into them.
“I said, ‘This is a guy who’s going to come in here and shoot us,” Marquardt said. “I was right.”
He said the police investigated but found nothing actionable. Now, Marquardt said he can’t help but feel a sense of guilt.
“I don’t know how it can get any worse,” he said. “There’s no question in my mind that his motive was revenge, but it was also making all of us feel guilty. I bet he’s pretty satisfied now.”
Ramos’ profile photo on Twitter is a photo of Hartley. Hartley did not respond to requests for comment.
A hearing was held on Ramos’ defamation suit in March 2013, and a judge threw the case out.
Ramos appealed the ruling, and that was 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 Moylan. On Thursday at 2:37 p.m., 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 Moylan. Before Thursday, Ramos had not tweeted since January 2016.
Ramos’ lawyer in the harassment case, 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.
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The Washington Post’s Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Joe Heim, Jennifer Jenkins, Peter Hermann and Reis Thebault contributed to this report.