Jarrod Ramos, the 38-year-old alleged shooter who killed five staff members of the Annapolis, MD newspaper the Capital Gazette on Thursday, is a glaring example of someone who should not have been able to legally purchase a gun.
A profile of Ramos published Friday by The Baltimore Sun, which owns the Capital Gazette, noted that he legally bought the shotgun used in the massacre about a year ago. He was able to purchase the gun despite a pledge to kill one of the newspaper’s writers and three restraining orders placed against him by another woman whom he had continuously harassed. According to the Sun, a lawyer who represented the woman had warned a judge of Ramos’ “violent fetishes.”
“It was very obvious to me very early that this was a person who was malignant,” the lawyer, Brennan McCarthy, told the Sun. “He felt that he was at war. He was at war with The Capital. He was at war with my client. He was at war with me. He was at war with my family. I was very, very scared for my family for years because of this individual.”
The Sun cites court documents describing “years of hostile behavior” directed at the woman who obtained the restraining orders and at the staff of the Capital Gazette. Police already have said that they have evidence showing Ramos planned the attack on the newspaper, which killed staffers Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters, Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, and Rebecca Smith, and injured Rachael Pacella and Janel Cooley.
The report doesn’t elaborate as to how or where Ramos purchased the shotgun, but it does provide extensive detail about his mental instability and propensity for violence, two red flags that should have been considered in any firearms transaction.
Ramos’ dispute with the newspaper began seven years ago, after it published a column about his harassment of a former high school classmate. He unsuccessfully sued members of the newspaper’s staff over that column.
According to the Sun:
The woman Ramos was convicted of harassing had filed two police reports against him after he began contacting her in late 2009 or early 2010, according to court records. Initially nice, his emails to her quickly turned “vulgar,” according to court documents.
By January 2011, she sought a restraining order and criminal harassment charges against him, calling it a “last resort,” court documents show.
A judge approved a restraining order, and Ramos pleaded guilty to harassment. He received a 90-day suspended sentence with 18 months probation. He was required to be evaluated and attend counseling for psychiatric or psychological treatment and to stay away from the woman and her family.
None of that stopped Ramos, who continued to threaten the woman. She obtained two more restraining orders against him in 2012 and 2013. Newspaper staff met with police to discuss the situation, including Ramos’ threats against the paper and his violent tendencies and behavior, which according to police included mentioning “blood in the water, journalist hell, hit man, open season,” and a “murderous rampage,” among other threats. In 2014, he wrote that he wanted to kill the newspaper columnist.
Despite all of this, a police officer did not believe Ramos was a threat to newspaper staff, and whoever sold him the gun also apparently failed to take any of this into consideration. The victim of Ramos’ previous harassment even had to move out of state to protect herself.
So, why exactly was he able to legally purchase the weapon he used to (allegedly) commit mass murder?
It’s a question that needs an answer.