Jarrod Ramos, armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades, stormed the office of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, Thursday, killing five people and injuring others. Ramos had a long-standing feud with the paper—or, more specifically, had a long-standing issue with their coverage of his misogynistic and abusive behavior.
Gerald Fischman. Rob Hiaasen. John McNamara. Rebecca Smith. Wendi Winters. Today we mourn the senseless loss of 5 Capital Gazette staff members who were gunned down on the job. Visitors to the museum will find our tribute in the Journalists Memorial on level 3. #WithoutNews pic.twitter.com/XbUk3tY9Gk
— Newseum (@Newseum) June 29, 2018
Around 2009, Ramos and a woman he knew in high school reconnected on Facebook; after connecting, he sent her messages asking for help—then calling her vulgar names and telling her to kill herself. He also began calling her employer, leading her to be put on probation and eventually laid off. Gazette staffer Eric Thomas Hartley covered the story in 2011, when the woman took Ramos to court. He pleaded guilty to criminal harassment and was placed on 18-months’ probation. “He was as angry an individual as I have ever seen,” Brennan McCarthy, her attorney, was quoted as saying. “He is malevolent.”
The Gazette story, titled “Jarrod wants to be your friend” and published after the case, outlined Ramos’ alleged erratic behavior and included alleged emails he sent—including telling McCarthy’s client to hang herself and declaring that “you can’t make me stop.” Ramos sued the paper for defamation in 2012, but the case was dismissed in 2015 on appeal. “I think people who are the subject of newspaper articles, whoever they may be, feel that there is a requirement that they be placed in the best light, or they have an opportunity to have the story reported to their satisfaction, or have the opportunity to have however much input they believe is appropriate,” Judge Maureen M. Lamasney said when dismissing the case. “But that’s simply not true. There is nothing in those complaints that prove that anything that was published about you is, in fact, false.”
This made Ramos even angrier. “I, for one, received what I considered to be a death threat,” said Tom Marquardt, the Gazette‘s executive editor at the time. Marquardt went to police about Ramos’ threat at the time, but was told nothing could be done. Around that time, a Twitter user believed to be Ramos began railing against the paper, which continued for years. “Eric Thomas Harley knows from experience but doesn’t appreciate how bad it can get,” one tweet from December 2015 read. “Journalist Hell awaits.”
Ramos is not the first man to resort to an act of public violence in the wake of stalking, assaulting or otherwise abusing women. The Gazette shooting is one of many reminders from just this last year that misogyny and gun violence go hand-in-hand. According to a 2017 study released by Everytown for Gun Safety, 54 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016 included intimate partners and family members among the victims. More than 40 percent of the victims were children.
Those who have been convicted of a domestic violence offense, including misdemeanors, or are subject to a long-term domestic violence protective order are prohibited by federal law from purchasing or owning a gun due to the landmark 1996 effort, led by the Feminist Majority and National Network to End Domestic Violence, to pass the Lautenberg Amendment—but law does not include those subject to a temporary restraining order, nor does it cover boyfriends or convicted stalkers. Only current or former spouses, someone who has a child with the victim or someone who lives or has lived with the victim as a spouse can be prohibited from owning a gun under the law—leaving open a wide loophole for boyfriends, stalkers and other perpetrators to fall through the cracks and gain access to firearms.
“It makes sense to take guns away from people who exhibit impulsive anger, controlling behaviors, patterns of violence,” says Lisette Johnson. “That just makes sense.” Johnson knows that fact firsthand: In 2009, her abusive husband of 21 years shot her several times before killing himself.
What happened in Maryland Thursday is a reminder not only of the stunning normalcy of public violence in this country, but of the thruline connecting many mass shooters: toxic views of women, and often, histories of acting violent toward them. Until we begin taking such men at their (most threatening) word—and take seriously the need to protect women from their assailants—the entire country will continue to face the consequences.