Last Thursday afternoon a man used a pump-action shotgun to blast through the glass-door entrance at newspaper publisher Capital Gazette Communications in Annapolis, MD. He killed five people and wounded seven others in an attack that lasted only a minute, at which point police were already at the scene. A minute after that, police say they found Jarrod Ramos hiding under a news desk and arrested him.
In 2011, The Capital newspaper’s police blotter section featured a small article about how Jarod Ramos had been arrested for stalking and harassing a woman he remembered from high school but who claims that she didn’t remember him. For the next few years he openly taunted the newspaper and several of its staffers on social media, also suing them for defamation and failing because he couldn’t point to a single falsehood they’d written.
Four reporters and one sales assistant were killed in the attack. Now several staffers, as well as the woman Ramos originally stalked, are telling reporters they feared this day would come.
A former FBI investigator described Ramos as “an injustice collector…who goes through life…collect[ing] injustices, real and imagined.”
Why is it that some people are so poor at handling rejection that they allegedly wind up murdering the people they feel have slighted them?
Ramos’s First Victim: A Girl Who Calls Herself “Lori”
After the shooting, a woman who asked to be identified solely by the pseudonym “Lori” spoke to the press, recalling the mental torture Ramos put her through back in 2009 that originally had her contact police.
She says that more than a decade after they graduated from high school, he contacted her out of nowhere on Facebook:
He told me at one point that he was reaching out to me because I was the only person who had been nice to him in high school….We were sending just short emails back and forth every couple days and then all the sudden out of nowhere one day he sent me this really angry email…he said something along the lines of he was worried about me, that I hadn’t responded to him in three or four days, what was wrong with me, why was I doing this to him. And at that point, I kind of took a step back and said, ‘What is going on here?’
Lori says that in what she thought was a gesture of kindness and concern, she suggested to Ramos that he seek counseling.
This set off months of harassment from Ramos, who called her a “bipolar drunkard” and urged her to hang herself. Lori believed she lost a job because he contacted her employer and told her she was a crazy alcoholic. She even moved out of the area for fear that he would find and kill her.
The stalking continued until Lori finally contacted police in 2011 and Ramos pled guilty to criminal harassment. At the time, Lori had told the judge:
He seems to think there’s some sort of relationship here that does not exist. I tried to back away from it, and he just started getting angry and vulgar to the point I had to tell him to stop….I used to come home from work and I used to drive by my house every day and pause and make sure nothing looked amiss, make sure my windows looked cracked, my door wasn’t ajar….I was afraid he could show up at any point, any place…and kill me.
Lori says that the moment she heard news that there had been a mass shooting at The Capital newspaper but that the suspect remained identified, “I picked up the phone and said, ‘I know who your suspect is.”
Ramos’s Second Victim: Capital Gazette Communications
Five days after Ramos entered his guilty plea for harassment, a Capital reporter named Eric Thomas Hartley wrote a police roundup that included an article with the snippy headline “Jarrod wants to be your friend”:
If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably gotten a friend request or message from an old high school classmate you didn’t quite remember.
For one woman, that experience turned into a yearlong nightmare.
Out of the blue, Jarrod Ramos wrote and thanked her for being the only person ever to say hello or be nice to him in school.
She stopped writing back and told him to stop, but he continued. When she blocked him from seeing her Facebook page, he found things she wrote on other people’s pages and taunted her with it, attaching screenshots of the postings to some of his emails.…
Apparently having his public humiliation publicized even further was too much for Ramos. Over the next few years he left made over 800 tweets directly referencing the newspaper and some of its staffers. His Twitter profile read:
Dear reader: I created this page to defend myself. Now I’m suing the shit out of half of AA County and making corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities.
Ramos’s Twitter avatar was not a picture of himself, but of columnist Eric Hartley, who had a symbol for ritual murder Photoshopped onto his head. Ramos repeatedly referred to himself as a “crusader” who was fighting a “holy war” against the lying press.
After the 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, in which a pair of jihadists burst into the newsroom of a satirical newspaper and murdered 12 staffers, Ramos coopted the “Je Suis Charlie” motto and changed it to “je suis CapGazNews,” an eerie portent of his alleged eventual massacre.
In 2015 he also directed a tweet at Eric Hartley that appears to be a death threat:
Eric Thomas Hartley knows from experience, but doesn’t appreciate how bad it can get. Journalist Hell awaits.
A defamation lawsuit that Ramos filed against the publisher was dismissed in 2015 after Ramos proved entirely incapable of pointing to one factual inaccuracy in the article or how he’d been materially damaged by it.
This, of course, did not sit well with Ramos either. It only amplified his feelings of rejection.
Lori would not be the only person to see Ramos as a ticking time bomb.
According to the newspaper’s former editor and publisher Tom Marquardt:
I was seriously concerned he would threaten us with physical violence. I even told my wife, ‘We have to be concerned. This guy could really hurt us.’ I remember telling our attorneys, ‘This is a guy who is going to come in and shoot us.
Brennan McCarthy, the lawyer who’d represented Lori in her 2011 harassment complaint against Ramos, says that in his two decades of practicing law, no one has scared him nearly as much as Ramos:
“This guy was the most dangerous person I’ve ever dealt with in the court system….Of the thousands of people I’ve dealt with in court, this guy stuck. I was extremely scared that he was going to do something to me and my family.. He was communicating by telephone, by text, by Facebook, by instant messaging, and he was just saying outrageous things [to Lori] like, ‘you should kill yourself.’ He wrote to her work saying, ‘She is a bipolar drunkard and you should fire her.’ She actually lost her job…. It was a like a silent threat hanging out there.
McCarthy says that even though Ramos is behind bars, he still wakes up every day and looks out his window hoping that Ramos isn’t looking in and pointing a gun at him.
If Jarrod Ramos was indeed the killer, can anything be learned from this?
This much is sure: His constant harassment of Lori and the staff members of The Capital did not force them to accept him. If anything, it justified their reasons for rejecting him in the first place.
Jarrod Ramos may wind up spending the rest of his natural life sitting in a cage and feeling more rejected than ever. So if you’re feeling rejected, it’s best to swallow your pride and move ahead. Otherwise you might escalate an unnecessary situation to the point where the entire world feels justified in rejecting you.