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29/06/2018 8:03 AM IST | Updated 29/06/2018 10:45 PM IST

Capital Gazette Shooting Suspect Sued News Outlet For Defamation In 2012

The shooting in Annapolis, Maryland left five people dead and two injured.

The suspect in the shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Maryland on Thursday had a long-running feud with the newspaper and sued it for defamation in 2012, according to multiple reports and a former publisher of the news outlet.

Police identified Jarrod Ramos, 38, of Laurel, Maryland, on Friday as the suspect in the attack, which left five people dead and two injured. He has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder and will have a bail hearing Friday morning, according to court documents. The Washington Post also obtained a copy of a message sent to Maryland law enforcement that named Ramos.

Ramos filed a lawsuit for defamation against Capital Gazette Communications, its publisher and a columnist, Eric Hartley, in 2012 over an article about a criminal harassment case against him. The story included details about Ramos’ behavior toward a woman who rejected his advances, which included “months of emails in which [he] alternately asked for help, called her vulgar names and told her to kill herself,” Hartley wrote at the time. Ramos pleaded guilty in the case.

He was aggrieved by the newspaper’s coverage, however, and represented himself in the lawsuit. Ramos lost both the initial case and an appeal in 2015.

“A lawyer would almost certainly have told him not to proceed with this case,” the court wrote in its opinion following the appeal. “It reveals a fundamental failure to understand what defamation law is and, more particularly, what defamation law is not.”

Tom Marquardt, who served as executive editor and publisher of Capital Gazette Communications until 2012, described frequent encounters with Ramos during his tenure, noting that the man would often make public threats toward the news organization. The editor said he worked with or hired four of the people who were killed in Thursday’s attack. 

“He was on our radar so much so that I had posted a picture on our front desk in case he came in,” Marquardt told HuffPost in a phone interview, noting that the company was in a separate building at the time, but the office was relatively accessible to the public. “We felt particularly vulnerable in that case and felt the whole staff was in danger.”

Marquardt said Ramos’ lawsuit, in which he was named, was filed while he was still working at the paper, and editors adopted a strategy of “the less said the better” in dealing with him. But he recalled a moment when Ramos posted a photo of Marquardt on a personal website with a veiled threat that led the newsman to call the police.

“My mind changed when he posted on his website that it would be better off if I were dead,” Marquardt said.  “We went to the county police, showed them that statement, asked them to investigate it, but they came to the conclusion that there wasn’t enough substance. I was incredulous.”

A Twitter profile with the name Jarrod Ramos features a banner photo of Marquardt sitting with former Sen. Barbara Mikulski. Tweets on the account, which had been dormant since 2016 until one post Thursday morning, regularly attacked the editor and other employees of the Capital Gazette.

Authorities on Thursday said the gunman appeared to have a “vendetta” against the paper and had staged a “targeted attack.”

“This person was prepared today to come in, this person was prepared to shoot people,” Bill Krampf, deputy chief of the Anne Arundel County Police Department, said at a news conference. “His intent was to cause harm.”

This story has been updated with information on the charges. 

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