Annapolis: Jarrod Warren Ramos, the 38-year-old man suspected of killing five people at the offices of a Maryland newspaper group on Thursday, had a long-running feud with Capital Gazette.
Ramos had been attacking the Annapolis-based family of publications in the courts and on social media, it has now emerged.
Law enforcement sources said the suspect behind the shooting has been identified as Jarrod Warren Ramos, who is a resident of Laurel, Maryland
Ramos had sued the newspaper and one of its journalists in 2012, alleging defamation.
Almost a year earlier, Thomas Hartley, a former columnist for The Capital, the group’s flagship paper, wrote a column describing the suspect’s interactions with an unnamed woman Ramos contacted over Facebook, according to court documents.
Hartley said Ramos had sent her numerous emails in which he called her vulgar names and told her to kill herself.
The lawsuit filed by Ramos named Hartley, its then editor-publisher Thomas Marquardt, and Capital-Gazette Communications, then the parent company of the paper.
Ramos had pleaded guilty to criminal harassment five days before Hartley published his column, records showed.
He claimed in court documents that his perspective was not fairly represented. His lawsuit was dismissed in 2013, and an appellate court upheld the dismissal in 2015.
As the case made its way through the courts, a Twitter user calling himself Jarrod W Ramos posted numerous tweets critical of Capital Gazette, Hartley and the Maryland judges.
“Yes, Eric Thomas Hartley, you moved to … oh just go ahead and kill yourself already before I do (legally in court),” the user tweeted in 2014.
The account went silent from January 2016 until Thursday, just before the shooting at the newsroom.
An archived version of a website under Ramos’ name featured court documents as well as messages apparently signed by Ramos as recently as 2014.
One message titled “Open Season” mentioned 2000 Capital Drive, the address of Capital-Gazette Communications, and linked to several articles about the Capital.
“They call themselves an important watchdog, but who watches the watchers?” the message said.
“Even kings must answer to God, and a modern-day Inquisition is at hand. The potential judgement is no less severe; the carnage differs only in literal terms.”
A 2015 court document quoted Ramos’ lawyer as saying that Ramos had a degree in computer engineering and had worked for the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for six years.
US President Donald Trump was briefed on the shooting, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Thank you to all of the First Responders who are currently on the scene,” Trump said in a tweet.
Capital Gazette, owned by the Baltimore Sun, runs multiple newspapers out of its Annapolis office and the group includes one of the oldest newspapers in the United States – the Gazette, which traces its origins back to 1727.
Capital Gazette publishes a stable of newspapers in and around Annapolis, home of the US Naval Academy. The papers have thrived by focusing on local news in the shadows of two much larger competitors, the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun.
The shooting forced the police to beef up security at media outlets in other cities as a precaution, reports said. Law enforcement in Baltimore and New York City deployed extra officers to the office of the New York Times and other major media outlets as a precaution, authorities said.
Authorities have so far ruled out a terror angle in the shooting incident. No terror outfit has taken responsibility for the shooting as yet.