The man charged with killing five people at a Maryland newspaper was a high school “loner” who became obsessed with his reputation, according to a former classmate and a journalist who wrote about his bizarre online behavior.
Jarrod W. Ramos, 38, is being held without bond on five counts of murder after surrendering to police at the Capital Gazette. Police say he targeted the paper, which he sued over its coverage of his 2011 conviction for harassing a former classmate. A judge threw out his lawsuit, which Ramos unsuccessfully appealed.
“He was a loner and usually stuck to himself and was quiet,” said Carla Albright, who was in the same class as Ramos at Arundel High School. “He was … just one of those kids you stayed away from because they were different.”
According to court records and the Gazette’s 2011 reporting, Ramos tried to befriend a former high school classmate online, and then began harassing her when she spurned his advances. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment after the judge called his behavior “rather bizarre” and ordered him into therapy.
Ramos then sued the newspaper over its reporting on the case. A judge dismissed the case, so he appealed to a higher court, and was again rebuffed. During court hearings, Ramos repeatedly interrupted the judge, who found the newspaper’s reporting on his harassment case was accurate and not necessarily flattering.
The newspaper concluded at the time that, “the case is extreme. But it provides a frightening look at the false intimacy the Internet can offer and the venom that can hide behind a computer screen.”
As soon as news reports Thursday revealed that the newspaper was specifically targeted, a former coworker of the woman Ramos harassed said he immediately suspected the attacker’s identity.
The former coworker said he worked with the woman in 2011 when Ramos contacted her, and she told him how Ramos soon became threatening.
“She told me about Jarrod Ramos and the terrible experience she had with him stalking and threatening her. I really felt bad for her,” the man told USA TODAY on condition of anonymity fearing for his safety. “This was something that unfolded in the open and over time. I’m sure there were many people that saw this coming.”
On a website shared by Arundel High School alumni, a person who claimed to be Ramos repeatedly posted quotes about the cost of a lost reputation and detailed the court battle between Ramos and the newspaper. The writer noted that he knew where the newspaper’s offices were.
“I certainly did a bad thing, but don’t shun me for how it was portrayed by this newspaper,” says one comment on the site dated July 2011 and signed “Jarrod W. Ramos.”
During the court battles, Ramos worked as an IT contractor for the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Federal officials say Ramos, who graduated with a degree in computer engineering from the college now known as Capitol Technology University in 2006, worked at the bureau from 2007 to 2014. It remains unclear where Ramos worked for the past four years.
Michelle Sholund, who graduated high school two years ahead of Ramos, shuddered to think she might have eaten in the same cafeteria as the man accused of killing five people. Sholund said she’s heard of Ramos but didn’t have specific memories of him.
“People could easily get lost in the crowd, and I kind of think that’s what happened here,” she said. “Who knows what could have happened after high school? I do think some people change, some for the better and some for the worse.”
Part-time Capital Gazette sports writer Ryan Morse graduated from Arundel High a year after Ramos. Morse, who is in and out of the office covering high school sports, wasn’t in the building during the shooting. He’s spent the past day talking with friends about Ramos. He remembers him as a “peculiar guy,” who was quiet, a loner, not involved in extracurricular activities but sharp enough to take advanced classes.
The last time he heard his name was a few years ago, when Ramos and the paper were in their legal squabble. He remembers conversations about not wanting to aggravate him further.
“I think it was an attempt to prevent something like yesterday from happening,” Morse said Friday.
As Ramos emerged as the suspect Thursday, it sparked the memories of a few years prior.
“Once I saw him, and once I remembered, I wasn’t surprised,” Morse said.