ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The families of the five Capital Gazette employees killed in a mass shooting in 2018 and most of the surviving employees who were in the Annapolis newsroom during the attack have filed two lawsuits alleging a parent company did not do enough to prevent the attack.
The lawsuits were unsealed Thursday, according to The Baltimore Sun, which was also named as a defendant. The lawsuits had been filed June 24 along with a request to keep them sealed while the gunman’s trial played out.
Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters were killed in the attack on June 28, 2018. A jury on Thursday found Jarrod Ramos criminally responsible for his actions, rejecting defense attorneys’ mental illness arguments. Ramos, who had a long-running grudge against the news organization, had already had pleaded guilty to all 23 counts against him in 2019 but pleaded not criminally responsible — Maryland’s version of an insanity plea.
“Had Defendants taken reasonable steps to protect The Capital and its employees, Ramos would have been detected and stopped prior to entering The Capital’s newsroom, and he may never have attempted the assault at all,” one of the complaints alleged, calling the assault “a preventable tragedy.”
James Ulwick, a Baltimore attorney representing the Sun and parent Tribune Publishing Co., declined comment to the Sun on the substance of the lawsuits. Baltimore Sun Media acquired the Capital Gazette newspapers in 2014.
In court documents, attorneys for the Sun wrote that they denied the allegations and believe that the facts will show they acted reasonably.
“We recognize and share the continued grief of the victims’ family members, friends and colleagues,” Tribune spokeswoman Renee Mutchnik said in a statement. “The five lives lost in this senseless attack always will serve as a reminder of the important role that independent journalism provides for communities across America.”
The Capital Gazette was not included in the lawsuit, the Sun reported.
Ramos’ grudge against the Capital Gazette began after an article it published about his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of harassing a former high school classmate in 2011. He filed a lawsuit against the organization in 2012, alleging he was defamed, but it was dismissed as groundless. His appeals failed.