A detective who investigated threats shooting suspect Jarrod Ramos made years ago against The Capital Gazette told the newspaper's staffers he did not believe Ramos was a threat to them.
The revelation came late Friday afternoon, when Anne Arundel County Police released the report the detective wrote while investigating the threats back in 2013. Ramos was not charged in that case.
"I'm angry that this guy was still walking around and making all these tweets," former Capital Editor Tom Marquardt told the News4 I-Team.
Marquardt said he asked police to investigate Ramos after feeling personally threatened by his website and social media posts. He said he also held a newsroom meeting about the threats, alerted the front desk with a picture of Ramos, and even warned his own family.
"In my mind we did everything we could," said Marquardt. "I thought the guy was a physical threat, and the police didn't feel like there was enough there that they could pursue it. So I'm disappointed."
He says Ramos' grudge against the newspaper started in 2011 after it published an article entitled "Jarrod wants to be your friend" — detailing a court case in which the suspect pleaded guilty to harassing a former classmate on Facebook.
"That was written by a court reporter who was covering the beat like any other day and came across a story that intrigued him," said Marquardt. "It was something that he felt would resonate with our readers."
But Marquardt says Ramos became enraged and established a web page to post his rantings about the newspaper. He says it quickly escalated into personal attacks on Twitter against Marquardt, the reporter, Eric Hartley, and even Maryland judges who handled a defamation case Ramos filed and lost.
"We all felt threatened there and were all concerned about it," said Marquardt.
Within a couple of years, the reporter moved on to another newspaper, and Marquardt retired and moved to Florida. He told the I-Team he's positive Ramos knew that, because he posted about it.
"Who would think four years later something that happened on my watch would come to this?" Marquardt said. "I just about got sick to my stomach because he really wanted us, Eric [Hartley] and me, he didn't want those innocent people who died."
According to the incident report, the detective discussed the suspect's criminal history, current pending case [alleging defamation], gun ownership and Twitter account.
The detective remarked about tweets mentioning "blood in the water, journalist hell, hit man, open season, glad there won’t be murderous rampage, murder career and paper."
He noted in the report that Ramos had no Twitter followers at the time and said the account was "best described as ranting."
The detective said before closing the case he would review the information with the state's attorney's office for possible charges, determine whether the Twitter account could be closed because of its content, forward a picture of Ramos to The Capital for their security plan and monitor for any explosive reaction to his other pending case.
The detective noted that during a conference call with a Capital Gazette editor, the newspaper's attorney, and the reporter, Eric Hartley, who no longer worked there, that [the detective] "did not believe that Mr. Ramos was a threat to employees for The Capital."
He said he based that decision on the contact the employees had had with Ramos, that he had not attempted to enter the newspaper's building or sent direct threatening correspondence.
There was no mention of the detective contacting Ramos for questioning.
The very end of the report reads, "As of this writing the Capital will not pursue any charges. It was described as putting a stick in a beehive which the Capital Newspaper representatives do not wish to do."
Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare said Friday, "The Capital Gazette did not wish to pursue criminal charges. There was a fear that doing so would exacerbate an already flammable situation."
Marquardt says he lost several long-time friends in Thursday's shooting, including editors he hired years ago.
When he heard the staff was putting out a newspaper Friday in the wake of what they faced, he wasn't surprised.
"It made me cry because ... even this can't stop the news from coming out," said Marquardt. "If there's anything that would be reasonable to take a day off this would be it. But not reporters, they're just dedicated to their mission."