The suspect charged in the killing of five people at the Capital Gazette in Maryland, Jarrod Ramos, had a longstanding vendetta against the paper and disturbing history of harassing women.
Ramos’ sued the paper for defamation in 2012 after it reported accurately on his guilty plea for harassing a woman he went to high school with.
Brennan McCarthy, the attorney who represented the woman Ramos tormented, told CBS that Ramos used Facebook and email to harass and stalk his client for years.
“He was as angry an individual as I have ever seen,” McCarthy said. “She lost her job because of this individual … He is malevolent. He forwarded a letter to her employer, basically stating that she was bipolar and a drunkard which is ridiculous.”
Court documents show that harassment began in 2009 when Ramos and the woman became friends on Facebook. In 2011, Ramos pleaded guilty to criminal harassment and was handed a 90-day jail sentence but was ultimately placed on 18-months’ probation.
Five days after Ramos pleaded, The Capital published a column by Eric Thomas Hartley titled, “Jarrod wants to be your friend.”
The article reveals details from the trial outlining how shortly after becoming friends on social media, Ramos became angry and fixated with the woman and started sending threatening messages.
“I just thought I was being friendly,” the woman told the court. “But when it seemed to me that it was turning into something that gave me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, that he seems to think there’s some sort of relationship here that does not exist … I tried to slowly back away from it, and he just started getting angry and vulgar to the point I had to tell him to stop.
“He was not OK with that. He would send me things and basically tell me, ‘You’re going to need restraining order now.’ ‘You can’t make me stop. I know all these things about you.’ ‘I’m going to tell everyone about your life.’”
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In April 2010, she received a message: “Have another drink and go hang yourself, you cowardly little lush. Don’t contact you again? I don’t give a (expletive). (Expletive) you.”
She also said she was put on probation at the bank where she worked and was told by a supervisor that Ramos had called and advised the bank to fire her. She said she believed, but could not prove, that Ramos had played a part in the loss of her job.
Ramos sued the newspaper and Hartley in 2012. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2013 and an appellate court upheld the dismissal in 2015.
“There is nothing in those complaints that prove that anything that was published about you is, in fact, false,” the judge ruled. “It all came from a public record. It was of the result of a criminal conviction. And it cannot give rise to a defamation suit.”
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A Twitter account appearing to belong to Ramos featured a picture of Hartley’s and a banner image included photographs of Thomas Marquardt, the paper’s former editor and publisher, and The Capital’s former owner, Philip Merrill.
Under the bio, it read: “Dear reader: I created this page to defend myself. Now I’m suing the s— out of half of AA County and making corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities.”
He regularly used the Twitter account to post threatening messages about The Capital and its staff. In one tweet, he said he’d enjoy seeing the paper stop publishing, but “it would be nicer” to see two journalists “cease breathing.” He also called the 2015 shooting at the French publication Charlie Hebdo a “funny thing.”
The account had been quiet since January 2016, according to the Baltimore Sun, but moments before the shooting Thursday — the account posted a message that read: “F— you, leave me alone.”
Twitter has suspended the account.
McCarthy told CBS that Ramos was “obsessively” angry with the paper and the 2011 story.
“He wanted to get revenge,” McCarthy said. “It was inevitable. He was going to do something violent. The only question was, who would he get first.”
Acting Police Chief William Krampf of Anne Arundel County told reporters the gunman “looked for his victims” Thursday in the newsroom before opening fire with a shotgun.
Bloomberg reporter Madi Alexander created a GoFundMe account to help the newspaper’s journalists pay for medical bills, funeral costs, newsroom repairs and other expenses.
It has raised over $117,000 as of Friday morning.