The man accused of killing five people at a Maryland newspaper was investigated five years ago for a barrage of menacing tweets against staff members, but a detective concluded he was no threat, and the paper didn't want to press charges for fear of inflaming the situation, according to a police report released Friday.
The newspaper was afraid of "putting a stick in a beehive."
The 2013 police report added to the picture emerging of Jarrod W. Ramos, 38, as the former information-technology employee with a longtime grudge against The Capital of Annapolis was charged with five counts of first-degree murder in one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in US history.
Authorities said Ramos barricaded the rear exit of the office to prevent anyone from escaping and methodically blasted his way through the newsroom Thursday with a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun, gunning down one victim trying to slip out the back.
Three editors, a reporter and a sales assistant were killed.
"The fellow was there to kill as many people as he could," Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare said.
Capital Gazette shooting suspect split
Ramos, clean-shaven with long hair past his shoulders, was denied bail in a brief court appearance he attended by video, watching attentively but saying nothing.
Authorities said he was "uncooperative" with interrogators. He was placed on a suicide watch in jail. His public defenders had no comment.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of life without parole. Maryland has no death penalty.
The bloodshed initially stirred fears that the recent surge of political attacks on the "fake news media" had exploded into violence. But by all accounts, Ramos had a specific, longstanding grievance against the paper.
President Donald Trump, who routinely calls reporters "liars" and "enemies of the people," said, "Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their jobs."
Ramos had filed a defamation lawsuit against the paper in 2012 after it ran an article about him pleading guilty to harassing a woman. A judge later threw it out as groundless. Ramos had repeatedly targeted staffers with angry, profanity-laced tweets.
"There's clearly a history there," the police chief said.
Ramos launched so many social media attacks that retired publisher Tom Marquardt called police in 2013.
Altomare disclosed Friday that a detective investigated those concerns, holding a conference call with an attorney for the publishing company, a former correspondent and the paper's publisher.
The police report said the attorney produced a trove of tweets in which Ramos "makes mention of blood in the water, journalist hell, hit man, open season, glad there won't be murderous rampage, murder career."
The detective, Michael Praley, said in the report that he "did not believe that Mr. Ramos was a threat to employees" at the paper, noting that Ramos hadn't tried to enter the building and hadn't sent "direct, threatening correspondence."
"As of this writing the Capital will not pursue any charges," Praley wrote. "It was described as putting a stick in a beehive which the Capital Newspaper representatives do not wish to do."
Marquardt, the former publisher, said he talked with the newspaper's attorneys about seeking a restraining order but didn't because he and others thought it could provoke Ramos into something worse.
"We decided to take the course of laying low," he said Friday.
Later, in 2015, Ramos tweeted that he would like to see the paper stop publishing, but "it would be nicer" to see two of its journalists "cease breathing."
Then Ramos "went silent" for more than two years, Marquardt said.
"This led us to believe that he had moved on, but for whatever reason, he decided to resurrect his issue with The Capital yesterday," the former publisher said. "We don't know why."
The police chief said some new posts went up just before the killings but authorities didn't know about them until afterward.
Few details were released on Ramos, other than that he is single, has no children and lives in an apartment in Laurel, Maryland. He was employed by an IT contractor for the US Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2007 to 2014, a department spokesman said.