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June 29, 2018

Five killed in ‘targeted’ shooting at Capital Gazette newspaper in US

By PA Mediapoint and Press Gazette

US daily newspaper the Capital Gazette has defiantly put out a print edition today hours after a shooting at its newsroom in which five staff were killed.

Four journalists and a sales assistant were gunned down at the newspaper’s offices in Annapolis, Maryland, yesterday afternoon.

Intern Anthony Messenger tweeted that there was an “active shooter” and issued a plea for help as shots were being fired.

Phil Davis, a reporter who covers courts and crime for the paper, tweeted that the gunman shot out the glass door to the office and fired into the newsroom, sending people scrambling for cover under desks.

“A single shooter shot multiple people at my office, some of whom are dead,” Davis tweeted.

“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload.”

The shooter was said by police to have been armed with smoke grenades and a shotgun.

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In a statement, Anne Arundel County acting police chief William Krampf said: “This person was prepared today to come in, this person was prepared to shoot people. His intent was to cause harm.”

Jarrod W Ramos, 38, was arrested after officers stormed the building.

Ramos previously lost a defamation lawsuit against the paper in 2012 over claims he had been harmed by an article about his conviction in a criminal harassment case, it has been reported.

The suit was dismissed by a judge who wrote Ramos had not shown “anything that was published about you is, in fact, false,” according to PA. An appeals court later upheld the dismissal.

Gazette reporter Chase Cook, who was pictured working on Friday’s newspaper from a car park while waiting to hear news of the death toll, tweeted in defiance: “We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”

His message was seconded by the Gazette’s official Twitter account.

The paper ran with the headline: “Five shot dead at The Capital”, and paid tribute to fallen colleagues.

Among the victims was veteran journalist and columnist Rob Hiaasen, 59, who was hired as the paper’s assistant editor in 2010.

His brother, the novelist Carl Hiaasen, said he was “devastated and heartsick” at the loss of his brother, whom he described as “one of the most gentle and funny people I’ve ever known.”

Also killed were editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, special publications editor Wendi Winters, writer John McNamara, and sales assistant Rebecca Smith.

The alleged attacker had mutilated his fingers in an apparent attempt to make it harder to identify him, according to a law enforcement official. Another official said investigators identified the man using facial recognition technology.

The shooting – which came amid months of verbal and online attacks on the “fake news media” – prompted New York City police to immediately tighten security at news organisations in the nation’s media capital.

At the White House, spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said: “There is no room for violence, and we stick by that. Violence is never tolerated in any form, no matter whom it is against”.

US President Donald Trump tweeted: “…I was briefed on the shooting at Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. 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.”

UK Culture Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: “In face of the terrible tragedy they’ve just suffered, I can only imagine how hard it must’ve been for Capital Gazette to get this [newspaper] out. A free and fair press must always be cherished.”

Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson said: “Deep respect to resilient journalists. I’ve said this many times – it’s a noble profession.”

Authorities said the suspect was undergoing questioning by detectives.

Two people are said to have received superficial wounds. Authorities had said earlier that several people were gravely wounded. They have since confirmed the five deaths.

Police spokesman Lt Ryan Frashure said officers raced to the scene, arriving in 60 seconds, and took the suspect into custody without an exchange of gunfire.

About 170 people in all were evacuated from the building as a multitude of police cars and other emergency vehicles converged on the scene. People could be seen leaving the building with their hands up.

The newspaper is part of Capital Gazette Communications, which also publishes the Maryland Gazette and Its sister paper is the Baltimore Sun – neither title can currently be accessed online in Europe after recent changes to data protection regulations.

In an interview with The Capital Gazette’s online webite, Davis said it “was like a war zone” inside the newspaper’s offices – a situation that would be “hard to describe for a while”.

“I’m a police reporter. I write about this stuff – not necessarily to this extent, but shootings and death – all the time,” he said.

“But as much as I’m going to try to articulate how traumatising it is to be hiding under your desk, you don’t know until you’re there and you feel helpless.”

Davis told the paper he and others were still hiding under their desks when the gunman stopped firing. “I don’t know why. I don’t know why he stopped,” he said.

Reporter Selene San Felice told the CNN broadcast outlet she was at her desk when she heard the shooting and ran with some others to a back door only to find it locked.

She said she saw a colleague steps away as he was shot but did not get a view of the shooter as she sought to hide.

“I heard footsteps a couple of times … I was breathing really loud and was trying not to, but I couldn’t be quiet,” she added.

Annapolis mayor Gavin Buckley said the community is grieving the attack on their community paper.

“These are the guys that come to city council meetings, have to listen to boring politicians and sit there,” Buckley said. “They don’t make a lot of money It’s just immoral that their lives should be in danger.”

New York police sent counterterrorism teams to news organisations around the city in a move authorities said was a precaution, not prompted by any specific threat.

Police could be seen outside The New York Times, ABC News and Fox News early in the evening.

Picture: Reuters/Joshua Robert

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