Capital Gazette shooting: 'No one could ever kill this paper'

·3 min read
Candlelight vigil
A woman holds a copy of the Capital Gazette at a candlelight vigil to honour victims of the 2018 shooting

Survivors of the calculated attack in 2018 that killed five inside a Maryland newsroom have a message for the gunman: "You cannot kill the truth."

Jarrod Ramos was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his attack on the Capital Gazette office.

Prior to his sentencing, victims and family members denounced the shooter in emotional victim impact statements.

Ramos "deserves and has earned" his sentence, the judge told the court.

"He killed five people but no one could ever kill this paper," said former Gazette employee Selene San Felice, who hid under her desk during the attack. "I live to spread the truth."

On 28 June 2018, armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades, Ramos broke into the office, barricaded exits and opened fire as people took cover under desks.

Police called it a "targeted attack". Crime reporter Phil Davis described the afternoon to the Baltimore Sun in 2018 as "like a war zone".

Staff members Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, Robert Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman and John McNamara were killed.

Rob Hiaasen, Rebecca Smith, Gerald Fischman; John McNamara and Wendi Winters
The victims, from top left: Rob Hiaasen, Rebecca Smith, Gerald Fischman; John McNamara (bottom centre), Wendi Winters (bottom right)

Ramos, 41, had unsuccessfully sued the newspaper for defamation nine years ago after it published details of his 2011 guilty plea for criminal harassment.

Police would later detail three letters Ramos sent out days before the attack, in which he threatened to kill every person in the Gazette newsroom.

"It was his ego that could not handle that he was rejected," Anne Colt Leitess, the state's attorney for Anne Arundel County, told the court on Tuesday.

"Because he could not live with that reality, others had to pay the price for hurting his feelings."

"It's his silly grievances that will keep him warm at night. That is pathetic," she said, adding that the defendant was perhaps too arrogant to understand he might be wrong.

Ms Leitess also reminded the court that Ramos has never shown remorse for his actions and considers it his "greatest regret in life" that he did not kill the entire newsroom staff.

Ramos will serve five consecutive life sentences for each murder he committed.

He will also serve an additional life sentence for attempted murder, as well as 345 more years in prison on gun and assault charges.

He pleaded guilty to his full 23-count indictment in 2019 but his attorneys at the time argued he could not be held responsible for his actions because he was mentally ill.

At the end of a 12-day trial, jurors took less than two hours to decide Ramos should serve time in prison rather than in a mental health facility.

"The impact of this case is simply immense," said Judge Wachs as he handed down the sentence on Tuesday.

"To say the defendant showed a callous and cruel disregard for the sanctity of human life is simply an understatement."

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