Jarrod Ramos: Virginian-Pilot receives card apparently sent by accused.
A man suspected of fatally shooting five people at an Annapolis, Md. newspaper Thursday had a long running feud with a former reporter and columnist who now works for The Virginian-Pilot.
Multiple law enforcement sources have identified Jarrod W. Ramos, of Laurel, Md., as the shooter who gunned down several people at the offices of the Annapolis Capital newspaper Thursday afternoon.
Ramos’s feud with the paper is believed to have begun in 2011 shortly after Eric Hartley, now an editor at The Pilot, published a column about a criminal case involving Ramos.
In it, Hartley told the story of how Ramos had been charged with misdemeanor harassment for a long series of threats he made against a former high school classmate. Hartley wrote that Ramos pleaded guilty to the charge, got a suspended jail sentence and was placed on probation. He also was ordered to continue with therapy and have no contact with the victim.
Ramos sued Hartley and the newspaper for defamation.
He also created a Twitter account that featured a photo of Hartley and listed the handle as @EricHartleyFrnd.
Posts on the account ended in 2015 or 2016. It didn’t become active again until the day of the shooting, when the message: “F— you, leave me alone,” was posted.
Hartley on Thursday declined to comment about his interactions with Ramos.
Ramos was a 31-year-old federal employee when the column was published. He had a degree in computer engineering and had worked for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for six years.
Hartley wrote that in late 2009 or early 2010, Ramos sent a woman a Facebook friend request, thanking her for treating him nicely in high school. Not long after, Ramos told the woman he was having personal problems and asked her for help. When she suggested he seek a counselor, his responses turned violent.
“That sparked months of emails in which Ramos alternately asked for help, called her vulgar names and told her to kill herself,” Hartley wrote in the story. “He emailed her company and tried to get her fired.”
The woman was placed on probation at her banking job and later laid off, which she believed was due to Ramos. She called police and Ramos’ messages stopped for a while. But then he began contacting her again.
The messages caused her to “live in fear for her safety for months,” Hartley wrote. She filed the charges against him in January 2011.
In July 2012, Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit in Prince George’s County Circuit Court against Hartley, then-editor Thomas Marquardt, and the newspaper claiming that the statements made about him were false and caused him to suffer harm. Ramos represented himself in the court filings.
The case was later dismissed because he failed to include supporting documentation. He sued again in October 2012 — two months after the statute of limitations had expired.
Hartley and the other defendants asked a judge to dismiss the claim. The judge granted the motion, ruling that Ramos failed to prove the story had caused him harm, according to court documents.
“There is absolutely not one piece of evidence, or an assertion by you that the statement was false,” the judge told Ramos in her decision.
Ramos appealed, and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the dismissal. The Maryland Court of Appeals – the state’s highest court – refused to hear the case.
Marquardt, who left the paper in 2012, said he was stunned by news of the shooting, but not surprised to hear that Ramos was the suspect.
“I felt personally threatened by the guy,” Marquardt said. “I was worried about my well-being, my wife’s well-being, and the staff’s. We were all concerned at the time.”
The newspaper’s management reported the threats to police and they were investigated, Marquardt said. “They (police) didn’t think there was a case,” he said.
While Marquardt said he and others were concerned, he never thought something as tragic as Thursday’s shooting would’ve occurred.
“It’s one of those things that you don’t expect to happen, but when it does, I can understand how it could,” he said.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, Marquardt wrote: “The Capital, like all newspapers, angered people everyday in its pursuit of the news. In my day, people protested by writing letters to the editor; today it’s through the barrel of a gun.”