For some reason, and it makes no emotional sense when you think about it, when a mass casualty attack event occurs closer to home it somehow has a greater impact. We all seem to be comforted by the thought of, “It can’t happen here,” or even, “It hasn’t happened here.” Lt.Col. Dave Grossman was once quoted as saying that one of the most irresponsible things a public servant can say is, “It can’t happen here.” It can… and the unfortunate reality is that if you don’t believe it, it will, and that will be a slap in the face you are utterly unprepared for. Preparedness and prevention are our best defenses against these attacks.
In the case of this article’s topic, the attack occurred in my home state and within an hour’s drive of my residence. On June 28, 2018, five people were killed and two more injured when Jarrod Ramos attacked the headquarters of the Capital Gazette (so named because it’s headquartered in Annapolis, the capital of Maryland). Using a shotgun, Ramos executed his attack on the Capital Gazette employees, apparently motivated by revenge and having done some obvious prior planning.
Just like Cho at Virginia Tech, Ramos barricaded the rear exit of his target location before beginning his attack, thereby insuring a higher target pool in his selected attack site. The attack is reported to have started at approximately 2:30pm that afternoon. Inside the building were some almost 200 employees of the paper. Using a pump action 12g shotgun, and having barricaded that rear exit, Ramos began firing through office windows and then, having shot out the glass, continued to shoot at apparently random employees.
In what we’re beginning to see as a growing pattern (and thank goodness for it), one employee – Wendi Winters – charged Ramos. Here actions were described as using a trash can to charge him and screaming the whole time. Several witnesses / survivors claimed that Winters’ actions created a pause in the attack, giving other potential victims a chance to evacuate the area. Ms. Winters was one of the five fatalities and her actions as a hero should be hailed. Based on the statements of survivors, her actions gave them time to escape the attack. Of interest is the fact that Ms. Winters was over 50 years old and some recent research reveals that her generation – the “baby boomers” – are less likely to accept being a victim as compared to younger generations. The other four murdered victims ranged in age from 34 to 61, and there were three males, two females among the fatalities (including Ms. Winters).
Unlike so many other active shooters, but also true to a growing trend, Ramos didn’t engage the police or commit suicide. Instead he divested himself of his shotgun and hid under a desk before the police arrived in an apparent attempt to appear as one of the potential victims. To that end, he also allegedly originally refused to identify himself to the police. Police response was reportedly under one minute from the beginning of the attack, so Ramos’ casualty count of seven (five killed, two wounded) in 60 seconds give him a ratio of one victim per 8.5 seconds or less. Given his weapon of choice, a 12g shotgun, and the plethora of ammunition types available for it, it would have been easy for him to hit multiple victims with each shot. Some reports indicate that Ramos was in possession of a backpack upon his discovery, inside of which there were various handheld smoke, distractionary and shrapnel devices. The term “grenade” is often misused and may have been in some of the reports.
The post incident investigation revealed that Ramos had, some seven years earlier, filed a lawsuit against the Capital Gazette for defamation, but the lawsuit was dismissed in court. It was also reported that Ramos sent several threatening letters to various offices related to the newspaper but no legal actions were taken against him in response to those threats.
Part of Ramos’ court statements (the case is still open as of this writing) included his claims that he’d been seen by no less than five mental health professionals for multiple visits each. Ramos’ social media accounts and court records revealed an on-going angst he demonstrated against the newspaper after the 2011 article, the related litigation and the court’s dismissal of the action. Ramos reportedly not only threatened members of the Capital Gazette staff but also sent threatening letters to various members of the judiciary to include judges and prosecutors.
Threats and violence were not new tools to Ramos when he didn’t get his way. As far back as 2009 there are records of him having allegedly stalked and threatened, or caused fear in, a fellow classmate. The fear was sufficient that the victim sought a court order to prevent Ramos from having any further contact with him.
On the day of the attack, at some time prior to the afternoon attack, Ramos apparently confessed in writing to his intent to attack the Capital Gazette offices and to kill everyone therein. Such cases are easy to close after the fact, but Ramos’ history of mental instability may lead to leniency for him by the courts.
One interesting note on the responses to this attack: While politicians are well known for leveraging such attacks to their benefit in some way, the few who tried it after this attack were almost immediately shut down by… members of the journalism profession. The motivation for Ramos’ attack was 100% personal and there is no obvious or even implied political motivation attached. His only weapon used – the pump action shotgun – is so common as to be in an estimated 1/3 or more of American homes. It’s not an “assault rifle,” (a misused and inaccurate term), “weapon of war,” etc. It’s a common every firearm used by many for home defense and hunting. At least in this case of active shooter attack, the weapon used was such that there was no avenue of attack for politicians to push for more gun control.
That said, the weapon was reportedly legally purchased by Ramos sometime in the 18 months prior to the attack. Once again we see a disconnect in the mental health – and in this case, judiciary – records and background checks performed prior to any weapon being purchased. Had Ramos been denied the ability to purchase that weapon, based on his self-admitted and documented history of having seen FIVE mental health professionals, the attack may not have occurred.