Quick police response to Capital Gazette shooting partly by design, partly by luck

Within one minute of 911 calls about a shooter at the Capital Gazette newspaper office in Annapolis on Thursday afternoon, police officers were arriving at the building.

A combination of luck and planning led to the quick response.

The newspaper’s office at 888 Bestgate Road is in the busiest area of Anne Arundel County for police calls, county police Chief Timothy Altomare said in an interview Friday.

Bestgate Road is a bustling corridor not far from Interstate 97 and Route 50, lined with the Westgate Annapolis mall, office buildings and shops.

The area is in Anne Arundel County’s jurisdiction, but is just a short distance from the Annapolis city line. The patrol area is known as 4A1 and is always staffed with patrol officers. There’s usually an officer at the mall across the street from the newspaper office, Altomare said.

As it turned out, two county police officers were right down the street, having just cleared the scene of a traffic accident.

And a handful of officers from other jurisdictions — the Annapolis Police Department and the Anne Arundel County Sheriff’s Office — also happened to be in the area, Altomare said.

Starting with a couple of officers and then growing to half a dozen, all three agencies rushed into the building and to the newsroom.

“We had the first officers pulling into the area within 60 seconds, and they were inside pressing on the bad guy … within two minutes,” Altomare said.

Even though the first officers on the scene were from different agencies and didn’t know each other, they worked together in a dangerous situations to save lives and capture the suspect, Altomare said.

“Seconds matter. Seconds are lives. That’s what I’m so proud about … These cops didn’t know each other. They did it because that’s how they were trained. And they married up and made it work. Truly, truly that’s the way it’s supposed to happen,” Altomare said.

Jarrod Ramos, a Laurel man who had a long-running frustration with The Capital newspaper, was charged with five counts of murder in the deaths of editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, 59; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who headed special publications; editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, 61; editor and sports writer John McNamara, 56; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant. Two other staff members, Rachael Pacella and Janel Cooley, were also injured during the attack.

Ramos is being held without bail at the Jennifer Road Detention Center, which is a little more than one mile away from the shooting scene.

pwood@baltsun.com

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