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Gunman boasted about Capital Gazette killings, health department psychiatrist testified

The Capital Gazette gunman took pride in his meticulously planned attack, gloated about finding and killing a victim he had overlooked and said his only regret was not being able to murder more people during his rampage three years ago, a state psychiatrist testified in chilling detail on Tuesday.

Dr. Sameer Patel, who has conducted dozens of mental evaluations connected to some of Maryland’s most serious crimes, paused to collect himself before telling the jury about his conversations with the man who gunned down Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters in the Capital Gazette newsroom.

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Some in attendance gasped as Patel recounted his conversations with Jarrod Ramos, who has pleaded guilty to the murders but says he was not sane at the time. Ramos, thinking his rampage was done and preparing to hide, noticed a survivor, retrieved his shotgun and executed the man at point blank range, Patel testified.

Ramos, 41, even relished telling Patel about something he said while killing Fischman, his final victim.

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“That’s not something I normally see in forensics... He was proud of what he’d done,” Patel said.

Patel said Ramos chose to strike that Thursday afternoon because he expected there to be a full newsroom staff and an editorial board meeting featuring prominent politicians following the June 26, 2018, primary election.

“Including you Ms. Leitess,” Patel told State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess, who is prosecuting the case. “He named you.”

Ramos, 41, told Patel that his only regret is having not left more casualties, including specific survivors of the attack who he was angry to have missed.

Anne Colt Leitess, right, Anne Arundel County State's Attorney, questions Dr. Gregory Saathoff, left, a psychiatrist the prosecutors hired to investigate the insanity defense of the man who killed Wendi Winters, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Rob Hiaasen.
Anne Colt Leitess, right, Anne Arundel County State's Attorney, questions Dr. Gregory Saathoff, left, a psychiatrist the prosecutors hired to investigate the insanity defense of the man who killed Wendi Winters, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Rob Hiaasen. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun)

In only about 30 minutes, Patel’s testimony unveiled details about the shooting and Ramos’ motivation not previously revealed. His testimony, and that of Dr. Gregory Saathoff before him, showed just how carefully Ramos planned the mass shooting, how he carried it out callously and how happy he was with the notoriety he received afterward. His testimony will continue Wednesday.

Patel interviewed Ramos for 20 hours at Clifton T Perkins Hospital Center — the maximum security psychiatric hospital where he is likely to wind up if the jury determines he was insane at the time of his attack. He sat with the convicted killer longer than any other mental expert involved in the case and concluded Ramos was sane at the time.

The doctor’s report spanned more than 120 pages and included haunting details straight from Ramos’ mouth. Patel said Ramos was cooperative, flexible and eager to share his story. From childhood to the county jail, Ramos’ account of his own life was “extremely organized” and “crystal clear,” Patel said.

Patel diagnosed Ramos with narcissistic personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder, neither of which are severe conditions, he said.

Ramos chose a shotgun because he’d read most mass shootings happened indoors, and because he believed a weapon that sprays pellets would do the most damage, Patel said. He researched brands and styles of shotguns. He settled on Mossberg because they had left-handed rifles and a pump-action gun because he learned it was less likely to jam.

During the interviews, Patel said, Ramos also objected to public reports describing Winters as a hero — colleagues credited her with saving them by charging the shooter. Instead, Ramos demeaned her.

Earlier Tuesday, Saathoff, hired by prosecutors to investigate the insanity defense, testified Ramos had a longstanding interest in leaving a legacy and achieving notoriety.

“The issue of legacy had more to do with being remembered and doing something memorable than doing something positive,” Saathoff said.

Defense attorneys questioned Saathoff about inconsistencies in his report and made Saathoff address statements by Ramos that supported their theory that he was a delusional, obsessive and autistic man who committed the crimes because he was mentally ill.

Saathoff pointed to pieces of evidence he considered “legacy tokens,” or things Ramos did to make sure that he was credited for his actions. Those include four letters Ramos sent on the day of the shooting, including to the Court of Appeals and Judge Charles E. Moylan.

Saathoff said the symbols supported that Ramos appreciated the criminality of his actions and could behave according to the law.

A compact disk Ramos sent to former Capital Gazette columnist Eric Hartley included digital files with pictures and videos of the newsroom, which is part of Baltimore Sun Media, from the newspaper’s website. It also contained schematics of the office building he’d found online and security video of the building he had taken while in disguise after a snowstorm in February 2017.

Capital Gazette reporter Lilly Price contributed to this article.

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