(PhatzNewsRoom / USA Today / AP) — The suspect in the shooting deaths of five people at a newspaper in Maryland has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder and ordered held without bail, court records filed Friday show.
Jarrod W. Ramos is accused of opening fire at the Capital Gazette office in Annapolis on Thursday. In addition to the deaths, two people were wounded.
At a court hearing Friday, District Court Judge Thomas Pryal ordered Ramos held without bail.
Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare said Friday that police are still accumulating evidence from the suspect’s car found near the scene of the shooting and his Laurel apartment. Altomare said police found planning materials for the attack along with a pump-action shotgun but not a manifesto explaining his reasons.
More than 300 officers from city, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies responded to the incident, he said.
“We’re still putting puzzle pieces together,” Altomare told a news conference Friday. “We can’t fathom why that person chose to do this.”
Ramos was identified using facial recognition technology because of a lag in fingerprint identification, but reports of the suspect altering his fingertips are incorrect, Altomare said.
“We have not been getting cooperation from the suspect,” he said.
The gunman hid rather than get into a shoot-out with police, Altomare said. Police arrived on the scene in about one minute and had the gunman cornered within another two minutes, he said.
“When the officers went in, they were going in to neutralize a threat,” he said. “He didn’t run away, but he hid.”
The prosecutor, Wes Adams, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney, said Ramos barricaded a back door to the office, preventing staffers from escaping.
“There was one victim who attempted to escape through the back door and was shot,” Adams said.
Court documents show Ramos, 38, filed a defamation suit against the newspaper in 2012, but a judge threw out the lawsuit, saying Ramos “fails to come close to alleging a case of defamation.” A Maryland appeals court upheld the ruling.
Authorities surrounded an apartment complex connected to Ramos on Thursday evening in a small neighborhood in Laurel, Maryland. Police taped off the area near Ramos’ small side street Thursday evening as helicopters flew overhead.
William Krampf, acting police chief of Anne Arundel County, acknowledged that threats had been made as recently as Thursday to the newspaper via social media that “indicated violence,” but it was not clear whether they came from the suspect.
The five victims, all employees of the newspaper, were assistant editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, special publications editor Wendi Winters, writer John McNamara, editorial page editor Gerald Fischman and sales assistant Rebecca Smith.
Crime reporter Phil Davis, who took cover under a desk at the height of the melee, described the scene to The Baltimore Sun, which owns the newspaper, as “like a war zone.”
Anthony Messenger, an intern at Capital Gazette, told NBC News’ TODAY Show Friday that he was in the newspaper’s office Thursday when a gunman opened fire, and nothing could have prepared him for it.
“Initially I thought it was fireworks,” Messenger said. “I heard a pop and I turned and looked over my shoulder toward the front of the room entrance and I saw some faces that looked concerned but I couldn’t see any shooter or anything.”
One of his colleagues ran to a door, which Messenger said was never locked, but that was somehow jammed.
“I quickly realized this is a malicious situation, he’s (the gunman) here to do harm to us,” Messenger said. “I called the police … and I was not able to talk to them. I didn’t feel that I could do that in a manner that wouldn’t tip off our position to the shooter … once he (the shooter) moved away from us … I decided to text my friend, I said ‘Please call the police, I’m in trouble.’… In that moment I thought I was going to die.”
Later, Messenger said walking out of the building was chaotic.
“Unfortunately we had to pass two bodies of our colleagues which was something that nobody should ever have to stomach,” he said. “I think just the sheer chaos of it all, people were too caught up in trying to get to safety to realize ‘okay this is a man that we have a prior history with.’”
Contributing: Doug Stanglin, John Bacon, William Cummings, Sean Rossman and Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY; The Associated Press.