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July 2, 2018

Survivors of Capital Gazette newsroom shooting tell of horror and appeal for gun law reform as paper picks up 1,600 new subscribers

By Sam Forsdick

Survivors of the shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in the US have spoken of their horror as five people were gunned down in the newsroom.

Suspected gunman Jarrod Ramos, 38, was arrested after officers stormed the building in Annapolis, Maryland, on Thursday last week.

An intern at the daily paper had tweeted that there was an “active shooter” and issued a call for help while the attack was taking place.

Despite the loss of five staff, of which four were journalists and one a sales assistant, the Gazette published a paper on Friday.

Speaking in Saturday’s edition, staff writer Phil Davis said: “I heard a woman scream.

“The shots were getting closer as he was walking up the alley to the back door and shooting people on the way.

“I knew someone was killed or very hurt.”

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There were 11 people in the Capital Gazette newsroom at the time of the attack at 2.30pm. In a statement police said the shooter was armed with a shotgun and gas pellets and that “his intent was to cause harm”.

Survivors described the attacker as systematically shooting his way through the office as they ducked for cover under their desks.

“There were shots after he reloaded,” said Davis. “He reloaded the shells individually. I stayed under my desk hoping he didn’t hear me.”

Photographer Paul Gillespie said: “I dove under that desk as fast as I could and, by the grace of God, he didn’t look over there.

“I was curled up, trying not to breathe, trying not to make a sound, and he shot people all around me.”

Following the shooting, Gazette journalist Selene San Felice has called for action to be taken to prevent further attacks.

“If your help ends at thoughts and prayers, I don’t want them. What I want is action,” she said in a column in the newspaper.

“I’m not just talking to the president, or our governor, or our elected officials. I’m talking to every single person in this nation.

“We must do better. We must vote better. We must push for legislation so that this doesn’t feel normal.

“Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and thousands of people are dead because of shootings like the one I lived through.”

She added: “Pass legislation that stops the mass murder of Americans. Pray for me, then vote for people who are serious about making a change.”

In memory of the five people who were killed, owner of the Capital Gazette  Tronc has set up a scholarship fund for journalism students studying at University of Maryland College and a separate fund for the families, victims and survivors of the shooting.

Justin Dearborn, chief executive of Tronc, said in a letter to the company: “Yesterday was an incredibly tragic day for our colleagues in Annapolis, a tragedy felt deeply by all of us at our papers across the country.

“Our hearts go out to the families, friends and coworkers of Gerald Fischman, Robert Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters, who died Thursday in the shooting at the Capital Gazette.”

In the days following the attack Capital Gazette had over 1,600 new subscribers to the paper, according to Kalani Gordon, senior editor at Gazette’s sister paper the Baltimore Sun.

She added on Twitter: “If that’s not a message, I don’t know what is.”

As part of the Tronc group, Capital Gazette cannot be accessed online in Europe due to changes to data protection law under GDPR.

Picture: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

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