A man with a shotgun and a beef against his local newspaper stalked into the offices of the Annapolis Capital Gazette on Thursday and opened fire on the newsroom, killing five people and wounding two others, police said.
Police called it a “targeted attack,” saying the gunman had sent threats to the newspaper on social media and entered the building looking for specific people.
“This person was prepared to shoot people,” said William Krampf, acting chief for the Anne Arundel County Police Department. “His intent was to cause harm.”
The chief identified the gunman only as a white male in his late 30s. The Baltimore Sun, which owns the Capital Gazette, identified the suspected gunman as Jarrod W. Ramos, a 38-year-old Laurel resident who unsuccessfully filed a defamation lawsuit in 2012 against the paper over coverage of a criminal harassment case against him. Other news outlets reported similarly.
Former Capital Gazette publisher and editor Tom Marquardt told The Sun on Thursday night that “I remember telling our attorneys, ‘This is a guy who is going to come in and shoot us.’ “
“Marquardt said he considered a restraining order and asked police to intervene in 2013,” Sun reporter Erin Cox said on Twitter.
Police identified the dead — all Capital Gazette employees — at a Thursday night news conference. They were Wendi Winters, special publications editor; Rob Hiaasen, editor and Sunday columnist; John McNamara, writer; Gerald Fischman, editorial page editor; and Rebecca Smith, sales assistant.
According to Selene San Felice, a reporter with the Capital Gazette who spoke to CNN on Thursday evening, the gunman, whom she did not recognize, targeted the newspaper’s editors.
“That’s what happened here. Editors died. It’s just a fact,” she said, trying to keep her composure.
Authorities said it took only about a minute to respond to the shooting and they took the suspect into custody without exchanging fire. They cleared the building, evacuating about 170 people, and found smoke grenades in the process.
“It’s a tragic situation, but there were some very brave people who came in and kept it from being worse,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said.
Defiant survivors of the attack vowed to continue their work.
“I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow,” reporter Chase Cook tweeted.
The newspaper’s staff took to Twitter to share details of the assault, describing the gunman as shooting through the glass doors to the office, then opening fire on employees.
“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” tweeted reporter Phil Davis.
Other reporters also went on the social media site to let family and friends know they were safe — and to plead for solitude.
“Devastated & heartbroken. Numb. Please stop asking for information/interviews. I’m in no position to speak,” said Jimmy DeButts, community news editor and columnist at the paper.
He added: “We try to expose corruption. We fight to get access to public records & bring to light the inner workings of government despite major hurdles put in our way. The reporters & editors put their all into finding the truth. That is our mission. Will always be,” he tweeted.
The 30,000-circulation daily has offices in a building on the outskirts of downtown Annapolis. It shares the building with other professional offices, and people in those offices described a harrowing ordeal.
“Terrifying,” said Lacy McKinney, 32, who works at Chesapeake Cardiac Care.
“I finally got my hands to stop shaking after being released after being questioned by the police,” she told The Washington Times. “You never think you’ll wake up one day and see the police with big guns yelling and screaming to get your hands up.”
At a McDonald’s near the paper, workers were telling customers to stay rather than go home because “it’s not safe out there.”
Police said in addition to the five dead, two others were injured, possibly by glass shattering from gunshot blasts.
Anne Arundel Medical Center confirmed two patients were brought there from the shooting. They had only minor injuries, not caused by gunfire. One patient was discharged and the second was expected to be discharged in the morning.
Police had blocked off the apartment building where Mr. Ramos lived as they conducted their investigation Thursday night.
John Cusumano, who lived in the building, said Mr. Ramos kept to himself, and neighbors didn’t even know if he had a job because they rarely saw him leave.
“He played a lot of war video games because you can hear the shooting when you did laundry,” Mr. Cusumano said.
President Trump was briefed on the shooting while traveling.
“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,” he tweeted.
First lady Melania Trump and other White House staffers also offered their prayers and condolences.
Everyone who spoke with The Times spoke of how safe Annapolis is and used the word “shocked” to describe how the shooting punctuated the normally quiet community.
Rodolfo Beltren, who has lived in the Annapolis area for the past 15 years and drives full time for Lyft, said he ferried home employees from the buildings after the police interviewed all 170 evacuated workers. They were in shock, Mr. Beltren said, and all asked the same question: “How can something like that happen in Annapolis? To the Capital?”
The shooting prompted wild speculation from anti-Trump figures who blamed the president, saying his criticism of the press had created an environment that fueled the shooting.
The Baltimore Sun said police officers had responded to that paper’s headquarters as a precaution against another attack. The New York Police Department also confirmed it dispatched officers to media outlets in that city.
“These deployments are not based on specific threat information, but rather out of an abundance of caution until we learn more about the suspect and motives behind the Maryland shooting,” said Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism and Intelligence John Millie.
“It has become standard practice to shift resources strategically during active shooter or active terrorist events,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police Department in D.C. declined to say whether they would follow suit but urged people to report any suspicious activity.
• Dave Boyer, Laura Kelly and Ben Wolfgang contributed to this article.