Five dead, others ‘gravely injured’ in shooting at Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis

June 28, 2018 in News by RBN Staff


Source: Baltimore Sun | Kevin Rector


A shooting has occurred at the Capital Gazette in Anne Arundel County, a paper that is owned by The Baltimore Sun, according to reports from Gazette staff.

At least five people were killed and several others were “gravely injured” in a shooting Thursday afternoon at the Capital Gazette in Anne Arundel County, authorities said.

A shooter is in custody, police said. Police would not name the suspect or say what type of weapon was used.

Anne Arundel County Police initially confirmed about 3:15 p.m. that they were responding to an “active shooter” at 888 Bestgate Road, where the newspaper’s offices are located. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also responded to the scene.

The Capital Gazette is owned by The Baltimore Sun.

Police said a “long gun” was used in the incident. They said officers did not exchange gunfire with the suspect, who was now being interrogated. They said officers had recovered what appeared to be an “explosive device,” and had “tactically secured” the building. About 170 people were inside at the time of the shooting, police said.

Phil Davis, a Capital Gazette crime reporter who was in the building at the time of the shooting, said multiple people were shot, as others — himself included — hid under their desks. He said there was a lone male gunman.

“Gunman shot through the glass door to the office and opened fire on multiple employees. Can’t say much more and don’t want to declare anyone dead, but it’s bad,” Davis wrote on Twitter as he waited to be interviewed by police.

“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload.”

In a subsequent interview, Davis said it “was like a war zone” inside the newspaper’s offices — a situation that would be “hard to describe for a while.”

“I’m a police reporter. I write about this stuff — not necessarily to this extent, but shootings and death — all the time,” he said. “But as much as I’m going to try to articulate how traumatizing it is to be hiding under your desk, you don’t know until you’re there and you feel helpless.”

Davis said he and others were still hiding under their desks when the shooter stopped firing.

“I don’t know why. I don’t know why he stopped,” he said.

Police arrived and surrounded the shooter, Davis said. He declined to elaborate.

Authorities said police responded to the scene within a minute. “If they were not there as quickly as they were it could have been a lot worse,” Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said.

Officials at Maryland Shock Trauma Center confirmed the hospital was treating at least one victim. County Executive Steve Schuh said others were being treated at Anne Arundel Medical Center. Loren Farquhar, a medical center spokeswoman, said the hospital received two patients, both with minor injuries not from gunfire. One was discharged and another is expected to be discharged soon, she said.

Agents with the ATF were on the scene in Annapolis to provide support to local law enforcement, said Amanda Hils, a spokeswoman for the federal agency. ATF can help with tracing weapons, conducting interviews and other assistance.

President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that he had been briefed on the shooting. “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Thank you to all of the First Responders who are currently on the scene,” Trump wrote.

Josh McKerrow, a photographer for 14 years at The Capital, had covered Induction Day at the Naval Academy at sunrise Thursday. He was driving home to celebrate his daughter’s birthday when Capital editor Rick Hutzell called him from out of town.

“He said he’d heard there had been a shooting,” McKerrow said, “and he couldn’t get in touch with anyone in the newsroom.”

Then McKerrow heard sirens.

“Literally, that same moment, I saw dozens of emergency vehicles,” he said. “My heart sank and I knew.”

Police in SWAT gear and with assault rifles had cordoned off the area round the newsroom and shutdown Bestgate Road. Outside the police tape, McKerrow and reporter Chase Cook called and texted their friends and colleagues, trying to get answers.

Jimmy DeButts, an editor at the Capital Gazette, wrote on Twitter that he was “devastated and heartbroken.” He said he could not speak about the shooting, but praised the work of his newspaper.

“There are no 40 hour weeks, no big paydays — just a passion for telling stories from our community,” DeButts wrote. “We keep doing more with less. We find ways to cover high school sports, breaking news, tax hikes, school budgets & local entertainment. We are there in times of tragedy. We do our best to share the stories of people, those who make our community better. Please understand, we do all this to serve our community.”

He added, “We try to expose corruption. We fight to get access to public records & bring to light the inner workings of government despite major hurdles put in our way. The reporters & editors put their all into finding the truth. That is our mission. Will always be.”

Gov. Larry Hogan, on Twitter, wrote, “Absolutely devastated to learn of this tragedy in Annapolis.”

He said he was in contact with Schuh, and that Maryland State Police were on the scene assisting county police.

“Please, heed all warnings and stay away from the area. Praying for those at the scene and for our community,” he wrote.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch has represented Annapolis since 1987 and said The Capital is “the voice of the community.”

Even with a shrinking staff, Busch said, “they knew the pulse of the community and had a lot of influence on what took place.

“This is a shocker,” Busch said. “Over the years, a lot of these people become friends. They do their job, you do your job, and you respect them for it. A lot of good writers have come out of there.”

“This is really something that is totally, totally shocking, that we don’t know how to understand.”

U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes said at the scene that he expects the incident will shake Annapolis “to its core.”

“I know how close the ties are that bind people down here,” he said.

Police were also at The Baltimore Sun newsroom in Baltimore. Police said there was no threat on the Sun, and that their presence was a precaution.

The Gazette is not the only business in the building where the shooting occurred. There are 30 tenants in the building, including five others on the first floor with The Capital. They include accountants, lawyers, financial and medical offices. The newspaper has been in the building since 2015, according to CoStar, a real estate information company. They have 5,000 square feet of offices.

Jay Riley, a spokesman with St. John Properties, which owns the building, said management personnel were at the property “working to facilitate anything that law enforcement might need.”

Aaron Smith and Randall Fisher of the Fisher Law Office were on the fourth floor in the same building as the Gazette at the time of the shooting. They didn’t hear or see anything and didn’t know anything was going on until Smith received a text from a colleague saying there was an apparent shooting, he said.

They flipped a desk over in front of the door to the office and stayed there until SWAT officers arrived. They then walked out of the building with their hands on their heads, like everyone else in the building, Fisher said.

Bethany Clasing, who works in second floor of the building, said she heard a single gunshot and then heard the police yell, “Get down! Get down! Don’t move!”

Clasing said she saw a sheriff’s deputy standing outside of their door, next to a man on the ground who was being patted down. The deputy told Clasing and other employees to stay inside, but “literally a second later, they told us to put our hands up and sprint” away from the building, she said. “That was the scariest part.”

Rayne Foster, of Frost and Associates LLC, said a plainclothes officer came to her fourth-floor office suite and told the receptionist to lock the doors because of an active shooter. Foster ran over to the glass door, closed it and locked it, she said.

Foster gathered about 16 employees and told them there was an active shooter. Some employees began taking off high heels preparing to flee the building, she said.

“You see it on the news,” Foster said of people walking out of buildings after mass shootings, “and you think, ‘These poor people.’ You wonder how they feel. Now I know.”

Foster said one employee pulled two handguns out of his desk drawer and held them for self defense in case the shooter came. Other employees hid. At one point, they refused to open a back door for someone claiming to be police. “How do we know you’re the police?” one employee said through the door.

After the police entered from a different direction, they began filing outside. Foster said she and her employees kept trying to hold hands to comfort each other, but were told by police to keep their hands in the air.

Baltimore Sun reporters Scott Dance, Doug Donovan, Tim Prudente, Justin Fenton, Erin Cox, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Jessica Anderson and Meredith Cohn contributed to this article.