A memorial service Monday in Annapolis will celebrate the life of a sharp, witty, long-time journalist – and shorts will be fine, because friends say “Big Rob” Hiaasen wouldn’t want anybody to be uncomfortable in Maryland’s summer heat.
Hiaasen, 59, and four colleagues were killed Thursday when a gunman rampaged through the newsroom of the Capital Gazette, a small daily that is as much a city institution as the sailboats that fill the harbor and the charming shops and restaurants that line the city’s quaint streets.
The small cadre of Gazette journalists who survived the rampage are mourning their colleagues and doing their jobs, continuing to write stories from the offices of their sister newspaper, The Baltimore Sun.
The Gazette published a print edition the next day, and the staff continued to report and write over the weekend. Among the headlines on the Gazette website Sunday: How the Capital Gazette attack happened. The article cites police – and the staffers who lived through the horror.
Jarrod Ramos, 38, who had sworn a “legal oath” in court documents to kill a Gazette writer, was being held without bond on murder charges. Police say he targeted the paper because of its coverage of his 2011 conviction for harassing a former classmate. Ramos had sued the paper, but a judge threw out his lawsuit.
The Gazette story details how the gunman entered the newspaper office’s main entrance at around 2:30 p.m., shattering the glass door with the first blasts from his shotgun. He had already barricaded the room’s only other exit.
Eleven people were in the room. Within minutes, Hiaasen, editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, 61, editor-writer John McNamara, 56, sales assistant Rebecca Smith, 34, and reporter-editor Wendi Winters, 65, would be fatally shot.
The attacker fired twice at he entered, striking Smith, then picked his way through the room, shooting Winters, Fischman and Hiaasen. McNamara was last, then the shooter apparently ducked under a desk.
Surviving staffers trembled under their desks. The room smelled of gunpowder as police fearlessly swept in, less than two minutes after the first 911 calls. Some tended to victims, others began the search for the gunman.
The suspect was found within minutes and surrendered without further violence. The survivors were ushered out by officers who counseled not to look at the surrounding carnage.
An outpouring of support for the paper and its staff soon followed. A vigil Friday drew thousands to the City Dock. President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly blasted the “fake news” media, called the attack a “horrible, horrible event” and said no one, including journalists, should fear a violent attack for doing their job.
“To the families of the victims, there are no words to express our sorrow for your loss,” he said.
New England Patriots football coach Bill Belichick, who was raised in Annapolis, issued a statement calling the Gazette his “hometown newspaper” for his entire life.
“My family and I have enjoyed special relationships with many great people who have worked for the newspaper,” Belichick said. “My heart goes out to the victims, their families and the entire Annapolis community for this terrible and senseless tragedy.”
In an editorial Sunday, the Gazette said it would never forget the avalanche of love. But the response was not all warm and fuzzy, the editorial noted:
“Here’s what else we won’t forget: Death threats and emails from people we don’t know celebrating our loss, or the people who called for one of our reporters to get fired because she got angry and cursed on national television after witnessing her friends getting shot.”
The lineup of memorial services begins with Hiaasen. Winters will be celebrated July 7. Dates for the others will be revealed soon.
Homage for Hiaasen and the other victims was everywhere.
“This is so sad. Rob taught for the first time this spring,” tweeted Rafael Lorente, associate dean at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. “Feedback: He was a natural. Students loved him. Patient. Caring. And damn good.”
Mary Adams, owner of The Annapolis Bookstore, stands by a sign outside her store on June 30, 2018 in downtown Annapolis, Md. Adams, who knew two of the journalists who were killed in the attack on The Capital newspaper, said the shooting has made the entire community very sad. Brian Witte, AP
A women holds the June 29, 2018 edition of the Capital Gazette newpaper during a candlelight vigil on June 29 to honor the 5 people who were shot and killed the day before in Annapolis, Maryland. Jarrod Ramos of Laurel Md. Has been arrested and charged with killing 5 people at the daily newspaper. Mark Wilson, Getty Images
Summerleigh Geimer and Montana Geimer, daughters of Wendi Winters, gather for a candlelight vigil near the Capital Gazette newspaper offices in Annapolis, Md., June 29, 2018. A man armed with smoke grenades and a shotgun attacked journalists in the building Thursday, killing several, including Wendi Winters, before police stormed the building and arrested him, police and witnesses said. Jose Luis Magana, AP
Members of The Capital Gazette newspaper embrace as thousands of people prepare to march for a candle light vigil on June 29, 2018 to remember the five journalists from The Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. ROD LAMKEY JR., EPA-EFE
Mackenzie Bought, 16, plays “Amazing Grace” on the bag pipes on June 29, 2018 during a candle light vigil to remember the five journalists from The Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md. ROD LAMKEY JR., EPA-EFE
A makeshift memorial has been started near the Capital Gazette where 5 people were shot and killed by a gunman on Thursday, on June 29, 2018 in Annapolis, Md. Jarrod Ramos of Laurel Md. Has been arrested and charged with killing 5 people at the daily newspaper. Mark Wilson, Getty Images
A police officer lifts crime scene tape to let a vehicle pass outside the offices of the Capital Gazette, where Jarrod Ramos allegedly opened fire the day before, killing at least 5. Jasper Colt, USA TODAY
Wes Adams, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney, addresses the media after a bail review hearing for Jarrod W. Ramos, who is accused of opening fire at the Capital Gazette office in Annapolis. Jasper Colt, USA TODAY
Sisters Kelly and Katie O’brien leave coffee and donuts for police and media, outside the offices of the Capital Gazette, where Jarrod Ramos allegedly opened fire the day before, killing at least 5. Kelly O’brien said they also brought three cases of water the night before because police didn’t have enough. Jasper Colt, USA TODAY
Lynne Griffin pays her respects at a makeshift memorial near the Capital Gazette where 5 people were shot and killed by a gunman on Thursday, on June 29, 2018 in Annapolis, Md. Mark Wilson, Getty Images
Acting chief of police William Krampf speaks at a press conference about the Capital-Gazette shooting on June 28, 2018 in Annapolis, Maryland. At least five people were killed Thursday when a gunman opened fire inside the offices of the Capital Gazette, a newspaper published in Annapolis, a historic city an hour east of Washington. A reporter for the daily, Phil Davis, tweeted that a ‘gunman shot through the glass door to the office and opened fire on multiple employees.”There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,’ Davis said. Alex Wroblewski, Getty Images
Pat Furgurson, staff reporter of the Capital Gazette, reports outside the scene of a shooting at the Capital Gazette building in Annapolis, Md. June 28, 2018. Five were killed and several injured in the shooting. Authorities have taken a suspect into custody. Jay Fleming, EPA-EFE
Mayor of Annapolis, Md., Gavin Buckley, speaks to media across the street from the location where at least 5 people where killed by shooter at Capital Gazette Newspapers in Annapolis, Md. on June 28, 2018. Jack Gruber, USA TODAY
Police secure the scene of a shooting in Annapolis, Md. on June 28, 2018. A single shooter killed several people Thursday and wounded others at a newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, and police said a suspect was in custody. Susan Walsh, AP