Working off a description of the shooter’s race, clothing and hair, an Annapolis policeman noticed a pair of black boots and found the gunman hiding under a desk in the Capital Gazette newsroom.
“He’s definitely white. He has long hair,” Officer Wesley Callow said. “This might be our suspect ... He’s surrendering!”
“Put your hands behind your back! Don’t f***ing move!”
Already on his stomach, the suspect allowed officers to handcuff him. But he said almost nothing.
From the moment of his capture to the eight hours he was interrogated in the Anne Arundel County Police Department’s Homicide Unit, the man who fatally shot Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters cooperated with commands and was articulate and selective about what he said to authorities.
Testimony from officers, as well as video from their body-worn cameras and the interrogation room, showed how Jarrod Ramos acted in the minutes and hours after the mass shooting.
While the jury’s decision about the 41-year-old’s mental state during the crime will determine whether he’s not criminally responsible by reason of insanity, his behavior before and after the shooting are data points for the psychiatrists who evaluated him, lawyers have said, and could be important for the jury to consider, too.
The body camera showed Ramos slide out from under the desk with his hands behind him. After an officer handcuffed him, Callow asked for his name. Ramos calmly declined to give it.
He would refuse again and again during his lengthy interrogation.
With one officer holding him by each arm, they guided him out of the newsroom — walking past bodies, past the shotgun and past the shattered glass. A SWAT team was in the hallway, concerned there could be explosives in the black duffel bag Ramos brought. At the front door to the newsroom, a heavily armed officer asked Ramos if he would mind standing next to him when they opened the bag.
“I don’t care,” Ramos said.
The officers took him to the patrol car. There, they patted him down repeatedly. But Callow said he hadn’t searched Ramos’ boots. Another policeman started untying his boots, yanking the right one from Ramos’ foot.
“There was one more latch,” he told the officer as he untied the next. Then, Ramos moved his feet so they wouldn’t get crushed in the door.
Around 3:40 p.m. at the Criminal Investigation Division in Crownsville, a homicide detective entered a small room where Ramos was handcuffed at the table.
“How are you? I’m Detective (Kelly) Harding. What’s your name?” she asked.
Silence. Then, looking right at Harding, he responded: “You don’t know my name?”
On the witness stand Wednesday, Harding described Ramos as cooperative yet rigid. He was stubborn about saying anything about the shooting but willing to speak up if he needed something. At different points he asked for water, to have his handcuffs loosened, the temperature adjusted and a plain cheeseburger from Wendy’s. Harding testified Ramos was articulate and polite. She didn’t notice anything unusual.
However, the detective and a special agent from the FBI couldn’t coax him to say his name throughout the rest of the day. At times, the video showed, Ramos just stared at the investigators after the women asked him questions. He showed no emotion. When the investigators left the room, Ramos seemed to relax and lean his head backwards against the wall — as investigators watched on video all the while.
Harding called for the FBI agent to use an app to fingerprint Ramos. Harding then asked to take a photo. Ramos turned to face the camera.
“He posed for me,” she said, and they kept probing for his name.
“Why don’t you ask them?” Ramos said.
Perplexed, the investigators asked if he was referring to someone at the newspaper. They pleaded for him to give them a name.
Ramos named then-editor Rick Hutzell and publisher Tim Thomas. He assured the investigators they still were alive. Harding called her colleagues at the scene to track the men down. Eventually, authorities identified Ramos via facial recognition technology.
Equipped with his name and a little bit of information about Ramos’ defamation lawsuits against the newspaper, they reentered the interrogation with a different tone. Harding acted sympathetic by saying The Capital had botched information about her cases in the past and that it made her upset.
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She told him about an unfounded rumor published by CNN the day of the shooting that Ramos mutilated his fingerprints, though Harding and an FBI agent were the only ones who had them. Harding said the media made it up and urged Ramos to tell his story before reporters got ahold of it.
Ramos smiled and jokingly asked the FBI investigator if she was “an anonymous source.”
He didn’t laugh when Harding made a joke about whether he’d been kissing somebody before swabbing his mouth for DNA. When he said he was hungry, he told the investigators about his food allergies and promised them he wouldn’t get sick from eating cheese. Harding said he never complained about being touched, nor about changing into crinkly Tyvek suit once they collected his clothes.
The investigators changed approaches from passive — they tried telling him he was “the boss” and that it was his “moment” — to sympathetic, to urgent and, toward the end, stern.
Now they knew he killed five people who had nothing to do with his grudge, and hid “like a baby” when officers arrived with rifles. They presented him with his charging papers and gave him one last chance to talk.
“People are going to look back at your interview and say that you just sat there and stared at us,” Harding said. “And they’re going to mock you.”
Capital Gazette reporter Lilly Price contributed to this article.