Jarrod Ramos, the suspect charged in the killing of five people at the Capital Gazette in Maryland, had a long-term hatred of the paper. He also – like many other perpetrators of mass shootings in America – had a troubling history with women.
Ramos’s vendetta against the Capital Gazette began when the publication accurately reported, in 2011, that he had stalked and harassed a woman for more than a year.
Ramos – who has a degree in computer engineering and worked for the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, according to court documents – pleaded guilty to criminal harassment. But when the paper ran a column outlining details from the case, Ramos said he had been defamed. He sued the newspaper and the writer, Eric Thomas Hartley, in 2012.
The lawsuit was dismissed in 2013 and an appellate court upheld the dismissal in 2015.
During the case, a Twitter user with the handle Jarrod W Ramos posted several tweets criticising the newspaper, Hartley and the Maryland legal system. The biography of the Twitter account read: “Dear reader: I created this page to defend myself. Now I’m suing the shit out of half of A[nne] A[rundel] County and making corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities.”
In 2014, after Hartley left the Capital Gazette, the user of the account tweeted: “Yes, Eric Thomas Hartley, you moved … oh just go ahead and kill yourself already before I do (legally in court).”
Until Thursday, there had been no posts on the account since January 2016. A final post was made at 2.37pm, moments before the shooting. “Fuck you, leave me alone.”
The court case made staff concerned about the Ramos’s behaviour, the Capital’s former editor told the Los Angeles Times. “He waged a one-person attack on anything he could muster in court against the Capital,” said Tom Marquardt. “I said during that time, ‘This guy is crazy enough to come in and blow us all away.’”
Court documents from the 2015 trial reprint the article by Hartley. In it, the journalist reported that Ramos used Facebook to stalk, abuse and harass a woman he remembered from high school. In court, the woman described how she started receiving messages in late 2009 or early 2010.
She didn’t remember Ramos, she said, so he sent pictures. He was having issues, so she wrote back and suggested a counselling centre, Hartley reported.
“I just thought I was being friendly,” the woman told the court. “But when it seemed to me that it was turning into something that gave me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, that he seems to think there’s some sort of relationship here that does not exist … I tried to slowly back away from it, and he just started getting angry and vulgar to the point I had to tell him to stop.
“And he was not OK with that. He would send me things and basically tell me, ‘You’re going to need restraining order now.’ ‘You can’t make me stop. I know all these things about you.’ ‘I’m going to tell everyone about your life.’”
The woman described getting a message in April 2010 which said: ‘Have another drink and go hang yourself, you cowardly little lush. Don’t contact you again? I don’t give a (expletive). (Expletive) you.’
The woman told the court she had later been put on probation at the bank where she worked, and said she was told by a supervisor that Ramos had called and advised the bank to fire her. She believed, though could not prove, that Ramos had played a part in the loss of her job.
The woman contacted police and stopped hearing from Ramos but did not feel reassured, the paper reported. “That just left me to feel like he was stewing,” she told the court. “For all the time he was silent, he’s collecting things about me. And then comes back at me, like, 10 times worse than he had before.”
Ramos restarted the abuse, telling her she was “a bipolar drunkard leading a double life” and writing about her life – her friends, family, job and Rotary club involvement – which he had learned from the internet. The victim went to court to get a peace order and file charges. The abuse finally stopped.
An archived version of a website under Ramos’s name featured court documents and messages, some of which apparently dated from 2014. One message, titled “Open Season”, listed the address of Capital Gazette Communications, the home of the newspaper.
It stated: “They call themselves an important watchdog, but who watches the watchers? Even kings must answer to God, and a modern day Inquisition is at hand. The potential judgement is no less severe; the carnage differs only in literal terms.”