Capital Gazette suspect allegedly mailed threatening letters before Thursday's shooting

The alleged gunman in Thursday’s killings at The Capital sent three threatening letters before the shooting rampage at the Annapolis newspaper, Anne Arundel County police said Monday.

Thomas Marquardt, the Capital’s former publisher, said the paper’s former attorney turned over to police mail received at his law office Monday — a document, signed in the suspect’s name, saying he was on his way to the newspaper “with the objective of killing every person present.”

The document is dated June 28, the day of the shootings, and signed Jarrod W. Ramos. Ramos is charged with five counts of first-degree murder in Thursday’s mass shooting.

It included instructions to share a copy with Marquardt, who provided it to The Baltimore Sun.

Anne Arundel County police said investigators believe Ramos mailed three letters in total, including one to Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals and one to a Baltimore City judge.

A police spokesman, Marc Limansky, declined to describe the content of the letters, but said they were threatening and bore Ramos’ name and return address. He said police believe they were sent before the attack, and detectives are now investigating.

“They’ll examine them and see what the letters show,” Limansky said. “It could point to different things. It could maybe open up another avenue of exploration.”

The document received by The Capital’s former attorney was written to look like a court filing, but it was not clear Monday whether it was actually filed. It is styled a “Motion for Reconsideration” by Maryland’s top court, which in 2016 refused to hear a defamation case Ramos, now 38, had filed against the newspaper.

“You were too cowardly to confront those lies, and this is your receipt,” the document says. “I told you so.”

The writer says a copy was being sent to the newspaper’s lawyer.

“I further certify I then did proceed to the office of respondent Capital-Gazette Communications … with the objective of killing every person present,” the document says.

A letter attached to the filing is addressed to retired Judge Charles Moylan Jr. Moylan wrote a scathing opinion against Ramos as part of the defamation case.

“Welcome, Mr. Moylan, to your unexpected legacy: YOU should have died,” the letter says. “Friends forever, Jarrod W. Ramos.”

In an interview, Marquardt called the document “chilling.”

“It’s well plotted,” Marquardt said. “This guy was thinking about this for an incredibly long time. It’s unfortunate that nobody knew it.”

Neither Moylan nor The Capital’s former lawyer could be reached for comment.

Police say Ramos used a shotgun to blast through the doors of The Capital newsroom Thursday afternoon. He is charged in the killings of editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, 59; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who led special publications; editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, 61; editor and sports writer John McNamara, 56; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a recently hired sales assistant. Ramos is being held without bail.

Capital editor Rick Hutzell told staff members Monday morning that a threatening letter had been sent by Ramos. He told his reporters not to open their own mail from now on.

“We’re going to filter it first,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Maryland judiciary declined to comment.

Ramos held a long-standing grudge against the The Capital. It began with an article in the newspaper in 2011 that detailed a criminal harassment charge that a woman filed against Ramos, a former high school classmate of hers.

The woman alleged a campaign of harassment that began on Facebook and continued for months. It eventually seemed to have ended once Ramos pleaded guilty and was put on probation for 18 months.

But the publication of the article set off years of court cases in which Ramos represented himself. In 2012 he brought a defamation case against the author of the article, as well as Marquardt and the company that published the Capital. A Prince George’s County judge threw the case out, but Ramos appealed to the Court of Special Appeals.

In 2015, Moylan, a retired judge who continued to hear cases, upheld the lower court’s ruling in an opinion that quoted The Capital article in its entirety.

The judge wrote that the newspaper had done nothing wrong and that Ramos displayed a “fundamental failure to understand what defamation law is and, more particularly, what defamation law is not.”

The decision noted that Ramos had pleaded guilty. “The appellant was punished for his criminal act,” Moylan wrote. “He is not entitled to equal sympathy with his victim and may not blithely dismiss her as a ‘bipolar drunkard.’ He does not appear to have learned his lesson.”

As the courts pushed back against Ramos, the number of people he sued or assailed online grew to include the lawyers and judges he believed had wronged him. Moylan became a particular target of Ramos’ online ranting.

In a post on Twitter moments before Thursday’s shooting, he tagged an account he appears to have created in Moylan’s name. In his post, Ramos wrote, “F— you, leave me alone.”

Complete coverage: Capital Gazette shooting »

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