Police: Gazette gunman blocked exit to ‘kill as many as he could’

June 29 (UPI) — The man accused of shooting five people dead at a Washington, D.C.-area newspaper was charged with first-degree murder Friday and will be held without bail, a judge ruled.

Prosecutor Wes Adams said at a news conference Friday suspect Jarrod Ramos carried out a “coordinated attack” on the newsroom of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., Thursday and barricaded a back door so people couldn’t escape.

“We brought to the judge’s attention the evidence that suggested a coordinated attack: The barricading of a back door and the use of a tactical approach in hunting down and shooting the innocent victims in this case,” Adams said.

Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare said the shotgun used in the attack was legally purchased a year ago, and Ramos attempted “to kill as many people as he could.”

Authorities say Ramos, 38, began randomly shooting people at the Gazette’s newsroom Thursday afternoon. Five people died and two were injured before Ramos was restrained and arrested. Four of the five dead were journalists at the paper.

President Donald Trump called the attack a “horrible event.”

“Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job,” he said Friday.

The victims are Rob Hiaasen, 59, an assistant editor and columnist; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent; Gerald Fischman, 61, the editorial page editor; John McNamara, 56, a staff writer who’d covered high school, college and professional sports and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant hired in November.

The Gazette issued a Friday edition.

Journalists at the paper described the scene of Thursday’s attack as a “war zone.”

In a post on Facebook Hiassen’s brother Carl wrote he was “devastated and heartsick to confirm the loss of my wonderful brother Rob.”

“Rob was an editor and columnist at the paper, and one of the most gentle and funny people I’ve ever known,” he wrote. “He spent his whole gifted career as a journalist, and he believed profoundly in the craft and mission of serving the public’s right to know the news.”

Fischman worked at the newspaper for more than 25 years and recently won two awards from the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Press Association for his work.

McNamara, who worked at the paper for 20 years, was called a “jack of all trades” for his versatility.

Marty Padden, the Capital Gazette’s advertising director, told the Baltimore Sun Smith was a “thoughtful” person and seemed to “really enjoy” working in the media business.

Winters, who wrote several weekly columns for the paper, was an active volunteer with Girl Scouts and Red Cross and had created an annual event in Annapolis called P.R. Bazaar, where local journalists and public relations professionals meet to learn from each other.

Investigators are working to determine a motive for the shootings, which could have stemmed from a longtime feud Ramos is said to have had with the Gazette.

Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit in 2012 against the paper for an article that detailed a criminal harassment charge against him a year earlier. Named in the suit were former columnist Eric Hartley and former Gazette publisher Thomas Marquardt.

A social media account in Ramos’ name addressed the legal proceeding and included a new post shortly before the shooting Thursday after being dormant for more than two years.

“I was seriously concerned he would threaten us with physical violence,” Marquardt told the Sun, saying he wasn’t at all surprised to learn Ramos is the suspect. “I even told my wife, ‘We have to be concerned. This guy could really hurt us.’”