Sarah Stultz: May the truth live on after Gazette shooting

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2021

I anxiously read the news story Tuesday afternoon about the sentencing of the man who shot and killed five people at Maryland’s Capital Gazette newspaper in June 2018.

Jarrod Ramos was sentenced to more than five life terms without the possibility of parole for the shooting, which was one of the deadliest attacks on a newsroom in U.S. history. The shooting rocked not only the newspaper’s community but also the journalism industry as a whole.

Those killed included editorial editor Gerald Fischman, editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, veteran reporter John McNamara, advertising sales assistant Rebecca Smith and longtime journalist Wendi Winters.

According to the Associated Press, Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge Michael Wachs on Tuesday described Ramos’ actions as a “cold-blooded, calculated attack on the innocent employees of a small-town newspaper.”

Ramos had tried to argue he was not criminally responsible for all of the charges against him, but in July a jury rejected arguments that he was not criminally responsible due to mental illness.

“The defendant did not get the final say; the First Amendment and the community got the final say,” Wachs said in the courtroom before handing down his sentence Tuesday.

In addition to giving five life sentences with no chance of parole, the judge gave the man an additional 345 years to underscore the fact that he would never be released from prison, the article stated. This included 25 years for first-degree assault of the remaining five survivors of the attack, another life sentence for the attempted murder of a photographer who barely survived that day and 20 years each for 11 counts of use of a firearm in a crime of violence.

Authorities said Ramos, now 41, had a long-standing grudge against the newspaper over an article written in 2011 that covered a criminal harassment charge against him. In 2012, he filed a defamation lawsuit against the paper, which he lost.

As I read articles about the sentencing, I was pleased to see justice was served for those who lost their lives, but it was heartbreaking to hear the stories of loss from friends and family of those individuals — and to hear how their lives had been impacted since the shooting.

Despite the trauma she experienced, a woman who witnessed the attack in the newsroom, and survived by hiding under a desk, said she and other survivors were determined to “press on” and not let the attack stop them, the article said.

“Remember this,” she is quoted saying as Ramos sat on the other side of the courtroom. “You cannot kill the truth.”

To my fellow journalists — and advocates for truth — I thank you. Let us never forget.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Wednesday.