ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A judge has accepted Jarrod Ramos’ guilty plea in the Capital Gazette newspaper mass shooting.
Ramos calmly admitted in court that he committed five murders and of other crimes in a mass shooting that killed five people last year at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis. He pleaded guilty Monday to 23 criminal counts after originally pleading not guilty.
His surprise guilty plea came just days before his trial in the June 28, 2018 massacre that killed Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman and John McNamara.
The jury trial selection to determine his sanity at the time of the murders is set for Wednesday at this time.
State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess read a detailed statement of facts in a courtroom filled with reporters, survivors of the shooting and loved ones of those who died.
She described how Ramos rented a car, drove to the newspaper’s office in Annapolis and blocked the rear and side doors—before shooting his way through the front entrance.
She said he had dual lasers and a flashlight on his pump-action shotgun. He wore earplugs and glasses to protect his eyes, targeting anyone he saw. Winters charged at him with her trash can and recycling bin. Others hid under desks. One victim was injured when she tried to escape through the blocked back door.
Prosecutors said it took 19 minutes from the time Ramos entered the building until he was captured.
The violent incident was recorded on the newsroom’s surveillance cameras, which were introduced into evidence.
After the shooting, Leitess said Ramos called 911. He told the operator, “This is your shooter. The shooting is over. I surrender.” The call was routed to Baltimore City, as are other calls in the newsroom, which is owned by Baltimore Sun Media.
Leitess said Ramos then hid while a team of police escorted survivors out of the building. When first interviewed, Ramos would not give his name and told officers, “Why don’t you ask them?” He was referring to Capital Gazette staff members.
Ramos had a longstanding grudge against the newspaper for an article they published about his stalking of a former classmate.
He made death threats against reporters online. His defense attorneys said Ramos logged into his Twitter account from a computer in the newsroom following the killings.
The next step in the case is determining whether Ramos is criminally responsible for the killings—whether he was sane at the time.
He has requested a jury determine his mental competency.
A Maryland Department of Health evaluation found Ramos was sane during the killings. The burden will shift to the defense to prove his mental state.
My thoughts are with the families of the people who died during this tragedy,” said Rachael Pacella, one of six people in the newsroom who survived.
She said she would continue following the ongoing case.
“It’s a news story. I’m a reporter,” she said outside the circuit courthouse in downtown Annapolis.
Seline San Felice also survived the shooting that day. “I’m glad to turn the page,” she told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren. “What I do is important. What we all do is important. I never want to stop doing that. It’s defiance just to be alive right now, so I’m going to keep doing that as loudly and in as many words as I can.”
Prosecutors are seeking multiple life sentences without parole for Ramos. Jury selection for the trial to determine whether he is criminally responsible begins Wednesday.