In the hours after a lone gunman burst into the Capital Gazette newsroom on Thursday and killed five people, the neighborhood descended into near silence. Shops at the mall across the street were closed, streets blocked off, traffic diverted, and locals appeared reluctant to talk about what had just gone down in the historic city of Annapolis.
Now designated a crime scene, the building that houses one of the oldest newspapers in the nation on the first floor at 888 Bestgate Road will never be the same again.
A block away across the street, locals gathered at the bar of a cozy chophouse with a rustic cabin feel. Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill is a place where reporters from the Capital Gazette used to come for lunch, happy hour, and laughs.
“I’m sure we’re going to know some of the victims,” said one of the bartenders. Reporters came in all the time, he added.
Two more locals who grew up in Annapolis referred to the building as a fishbowl, with ample lighting and windows, but also alluding to its fragility.
“Everyone thought things would change after Las Vegas, but it didn’t,” said one of the locals, a 27-year-old who did not want to be named, referring to the massacre outside the Mandalay Bay casino hotel. “We’re in a constant cycle... and nothing happens... Not with this government.”
“It’s a numb emotion,” he said.
Earlier, Anne Arundel County Police Deputy Chief William Krampf said at a press conference that the shooting was a targeted attack on specific employees and the gunman, who arrived with canisters of smoke grenades, “was prepared today. He was prepared to shoot people and his intent was to cause harm.” The suspected killer, 38-year-old Jarrod Ramos, had a longstanding grudge against the paper.
According to officials at the Anne Arundel Medical Center, which is down the street from Capital Gazette, two victims arrived with lacerations. Neither were gunshot wounds. At the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center 30 miles away in Baltimore, an official reported one patient arrived with more serious injuries, but would not elaborate.
For some, the Capital Gazette was “everyone’s newspaper,” a newspaper they didn’t think rocked the boat because it was always “in the middle of the road.” But it was a neighborhood staple of community-based journalists. Even on Thursday night, the surviving staff pulled together to produce the daily paper in tribute to their former colleagues.
Staff reporters at Capital Gazette like Phil Davis and intern Anthony Messenger continued to report on social media as the horrors unfolded. “There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” Davis wrote on Twitter.
Soon after the attack, reporter Pat Ferguson was already at the police briefing, asking questions and taking notes. He told ABC News he was across the street when he was called by someone at The Baltimore Sun who warned him to stay away from the newsroom.
As Ferguson turned the recording off on his phone after the news conference, a group of mics and TV cameras immediately surrounded him. Making a comment and then his finding his way out of a sea of reporters, Ferguson emerged looking disheveled, frail, and tired.