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Suspect wrote he aimed to kill everyone at Maryland newsroom

Carl Hiaasen, center, brother of Rob Hiaasen, one of the journalists killed in the shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper offices, is consoled by his sister Judy, right, and Rob Hiaasen's widow, Maria, during a memorial service, Monday, July 2, 2018, in Owings Mills, Md. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)
Carl Hiaasen, center, brother of Rob Hiaasen, one of the journalists killed in the shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper offices, is consoled by his sister Judy, right, and Rob Hiaasen's widow, Maria, during a memorial service, Monday, July 2, 2018, in Owings Mills, Md. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

BALTIMORE – A man charged with slaying five people at a Maryland newspaper sent three letters on the day of the attack, police said, including one that said he was on his way to the Capital Gazette newsroom with the aim “of killing every person present.”

Sgt. Jacklyn Davis, a spokeswoman for Anne Arundel County police, said the letters were received Monday. They were mailed to an attorney for the Capital newspaper, a retired judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and a Baltimore judge.

The letter Jarrod Ramos sent to the Annapolis newspaper’s Baltimore-based lawyer was written to resemble a legal motion for reconsideration of his unsuccessful 2012 defamation lawsuit against the paper, a columnist and then-publisher Tom Marquardt.

Marquardt shared a copy of the letter with the Associated Press.

“If this is how the Maryland Judiciary operates, the law now means nothing,” Ramos wrote. He quoted a description of the purpose of a defamation suit, saying it was intended for a defamed person to “resort to the courts for relief instead of wreaking his own vengeance.”

“‘That is how your judiciary operates, you were too cowardly to confront those lies, and this is your receipt,” Ramos wrote.

He signed it under the chilling statement: “I told you so.” Below that, he wrote that he was going to the newspaper’s office “with the objective of killing every person present.”

In a letter attached to what appeared to be the faux court filing, he also directly addressed retired special appeals court Judge Charles Moylan, who decided against Ramos in his defamation case. Ramos sued the paper after pleading guilty to harassing a high school classmate.

“Welcome, Mr. Moylan, to your unexpected legacy: YOU should have died,” he wrote. He signed it: “Friends forever, Jarrod W. Ramos.”

Douglas Colbert, a University of Maryland law professor, described the letters as “very powerful” evidence of intent that the state will make full use of at trial. Colbert said as long as it’s established in court that Ramos authored the letters, they will be used to show his “planning and deliberate actions” on the day of the attack.

The apparent admissions by the defendant will weaken a defense lawyer’s strategy of suggesting that he was “suffering from a mental disease or defect” that would impair his ability to understand the consequences of his actions, Colbert said.

Ramos, 38, has a well-documented history of harassing the paper’s journalists. The defamation suit was thrown out as groundless, and he often railed against current and former Capital staff in profanity-laced tweets. Police found him hiding under a desk after Thursday’s attack and jailed him on five counts of first-degree murder.

At a memorial service Monday night for one of those killed, editor Rob Hiassen, Marquardt said he once slept with a baseball bat by his bed because he was so worried about Ramos. He also said that they “stepped up security” at the newspaper years ago, and posted Ramos’s photo around the office. “But then he went dormant for about two years and we thought the problem has been solved. Apparently, it was just building up steam,” he said.

The mourning in Annapolis continued Tuesday, marked by a lowering of U.S. flags to honor the victims. President Donald Trump ordered flags flown at half-staff on federal property through sunset.

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said Monday that Trump, who has repeatedly called journalists the “enemy of the people,” said he had been told his request to lower the flags had been denied. The White House said Tuesday that Trump ordered the flags lowered as soon as he learned of the mayor’s request.

Buckley expressed frustration Monday afternoon when he was told by a Maryland congressman’s office the request had not been granted. He said he considered lowering flags on his own, but decided to follow protocol. He said he received a call from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders just after 11 p.m. Monday, asking him for confirmation if he personally was making the request.

“She was very sympathetic,” Buckley said in an interview. “She felt for our community. She said ‘I’ll get back to you in the morning,’ and she called me 7:16 this morning to say the president had issued a proclamation, and we’re very grateful for that.”

Hiaasen was remembered Monday evening in stories, poems, prayers and songs at the “celebration of life” ceremony Monday evening. He was fatally shot last week at the Capital Gazette along with colleagues Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.


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