The suspect believed to have carried out the shooting at the offices of Annapolis, Maryland newspaper company Capital Gazette that left at least five dead and two injured sued the publication for defamation in 2012. The charges were thrown out by the judge.
Authorities identified the shooting suspect as 38-year-old Jarrod Ramos. He was identified using controversial facial recognition software known as the Maryland Image Repository System, according to the Anne Arundel County Police. The police on Friday dismissed initial reports that facial recognition was necessary because the suspect had damaged his own fingerprints to delay identification.
Court documents show that Ramos sued Capital Gazette for defamation in September 2013. His lawsuit also named Eric Thomas Hartley, a former staff writer and columnist at The Capital, and Thomas Marquardt, the paper’s former editor and publisher.
Ramos was the subject of a July 2011 article in which he was described by Hartley as having harassed and threatened a former high school classmate on Facebook. According to The Capital, Ramos sent the woman months of emails in which he “alternately asked for help, called her vulgar names and told her to kill herself.”
“When she blocked him from seeing her Facebook page, he found things she wrote on other people’s pages and taunted her with it, attaching screenshots of the postings to some of his emails,” The Capital reported.
In April 2010, Ramos reportedly emailed the woman: “Have another drink and go hang yourself, you cowardly lush.” The Capital reported that Ramos also contacted the woman’s job; she was suspended by a supervisor the same month and then let go several months later.
According to the article, Ramos pleaded guilty in District Court to a misdemeanor harassment charge. He received a suspended 90-day jail sentence and was placed on probation. Ramos was ordered to continue ongoing therapy and to cease contact with the victim and her family.
A Twitter account bearing Ramos’ name and using the handle @EricHartleyFrnd—the name of one of the writers from Capital Gazette that he sued—tweeted several times about the newspaper. On February 7th, 2015, the account tweeted an explicit threat toward two of the defendants in his lawsuit. “I’ll enjoy seeing @capgaznews cease publication, but it would be nicer to see Hartley and Marquardt cease breathing,” the account holder wrote.
The account again tweeted about the Capital Gazette on September 16th, 2015. “Referring to @realDonaldTrump as ‘unqualified’ @capgaznews could end badly (again),” the tweet said, linking also to a story about a lawsuit filed by then-candidate Donald Trump against Univision. (The lawsuit was settled in early 2016; no details were disclosed. Univision is the parent company of Gizmodo Media Group.)
The Associated Press reported the Capital Gazette received threats on social media prior to the deadly shooting Thursday. Anne Arundel County acting police chief William Krampf said “general threats” were made against the paper, and he described the shooting as “a targeted attack” on the publication. Krampf said the shooter entered the building with smoke grenades and was armed with a shotgun.
A GoFundMe for Capital Gazette journalists has raised more than $25,000 in just four hours.
Update, 10:23pm: Shortly after Gizmodo’s story, The Baltimore Sun reported that the avatar used by the Twitter account in Ramos’ name is a photo of Eric Hartly, the Capital Gazette reporter whom Ramos sued in 2012. The account’s background image is a photo of Thomas Marquardt, the former editor who was also named in Ramos’ suit, and Philip Merrill, The Capital’s former owner.
The Twitter account’s bio reads: “Dear reader: I created this page to defend myself. Now I’m suing the shit out of half of AA County and making corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities.”
Update, June 29: Article was updated to reflect most current information about how the suspect was identified. The Associated Press on Thursday cited an anonymous senior police official who claimed the suspect had damaged his fingerprints, requiring the use of facial recognition technology. The Anne Arundel County police chief on Friday dismissed this claim, saying there was “lag” in getting fingerprint results. The chief said that the facial recognition system, which relies on mug shots and driver’s licenses, worked faster to identify the suspect.