Capital Gazette shooting suspect Jarrod Ramos made a "legal oath" to kill former staff writer Eric Hartley in 2014, four years before he allegedly carried out a "coordinated attack" on the newsroom and killed five people using a shotgun he legally purchased last year. Photo by Jay Fleming/EPA
July 1 (UPI) -- The man accused of shooting and killing five people at Maryland's Capital Gazette newspaper swore a "legal oath" to kill a writer there years before the attack, court documents indicate.
Jarrod Ramos, 38, said in a 2014 court filing that he wanted to kill Capital Gazette staff writer Eric Hartley, who wrote a story about a woman Ramos was convicted of harassing in 2011, The Capital Gazette reported.
"Plaintiff has sworn a legal oath he would like to kill Hartley, and he still would," Ramos wrote.
Ramos pleaded guilty to one charge of criminal harassment for stalking and harassing the woman on Facebook in 2011 and was given a suspended 90-day jail sentence.
Days later, Hartley wrote a story titled "Jarrod wants to be your friend," which included details of the case. Ramos unsuccessfully sued Hartley, former editor and publisher of The Capital Gazette Tom Marquardt, and the newspaper for defamation in 2012.
Brennan McCarthy, the lawyer who represented the woman, said he knew Ramos was dangerous before he carried out a "coordinated attack" on the newsroom in Annapolis on Thursday and had tried to warn others.
"It was very obvious to me very early that this was a person who was malignant," McCarthy told The Capital Gazette. "He felt that he was at war. He was at war with The Capital. He was at war with my client. He was at war with me. He was at war with my family. I was very, very scared for my family for years because of this individual."
In 2013, after Judge Maureen M. Lamasney threw out the defamation case, a detective at the Anne Arundel County Police Department began investigating threatening posts on Ramos' Twitter account that referred to Hartley, Marquardt and The Capital Gazette, ABC News reported.
"Ramos makes mention of blood in the water, journalist hell, hit man, open season, glad there won't be murderous rampage, murder career and paper. All were fringe comments associated with events occurring in the paper and are reflected in his Twitter," the detective wrote in a report. "During the conference I indicated that I did not believe that Mr. Ramos was a threat to employees for the Capital. This was based on the contact they have had with him, as only on Twitter and civil court filings. He has not attempted to enter The Capital newspaper building or sent direct threatening correspondence."
The report noted Ramos hadn't registered any firearms in the state of Maryland at the time, but Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare said he legally purchased the shotgun used in the attack a year ago.
Altomare said Friday the department hadn't been made aware of Ramos' connection to the paper prior to the shooting.
"There's clearly a history there," he said. "We were not aware of that history until last night."
A judge charged Ramos with first-degree murder and ordered he be held without bail on Friday.
Staff at The Capital Gazette published a letter Sunday thanking those who offered support in various forms after the shooting and remembering the staff members who were killed.
"We will never forget Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, John McNamara or Rebecca Smith, our five co-workers who were gunned down in a senseless attack," they wrote. "But we also will always remember the bells of St. Anne's ringing as members of our staff -- past and present -- walked down Main Street surrounded by thousands who turned out to support us in a march to City Dock."
The letter also included a message to those who threatened staff after the shooting.
"Here's what else we won't forget: Death threats and emails from people we don't know celebrating our loss, or the people who called for one of our reporters to get fired because she got angry and cursed on national television after witnessing her friends getting shot," the staff wrote. "We won't forget being called an enemy of the people. No, we won't forget that. Because exposing evil, shining light on wrongs and fighting injustice is what we do."