The Maryland newspaper where five people were killed this week filed reports of harassment in 2013 against Jarrod Ramos, the man accused of the murders. But the investigation was dropped out of fear that it would provoke him, authorities said Friday.
Ramos had sued the Capital Gazette for defamation after the paper reported on his harassment of a high school classmate. As the civil suit was pending in 2013, police were called to investigate harassing posts against the paper on Ramos' Twitter account, said Police Chief Tim Altomare of Anne Arundel County.
"It was investigated, and as a shared agreement between the investigators and the Capital management at the time, they decided not to press forward with a formal investigation because they were afraid it would exacerbate the situation," Altomare said on the "Today" show Friday.
According to a police report from May 24, 2013, executives at the paper called police to report that Ramos was "ranting" against the publication on Twitter.
An attorney for the Capital Gazette, Bob Douglas, forwarded "pages" of tweets to the police department. "Ramos makes mention of blood in the water, journalist hell, hit man, open season, glad there won't be murderous rampage, murder career and paper," according to the report, written by Detective Michael Praley.
Praley described the remarks as "fringe comments."
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Police investigated Ramos' criminal history and discovered that he had no registered firearms in Maryland. (The 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun used in Thursday's attack was legally purchased last year, police said). Authorities and newspaper representatives decided during a conference call not to continue the investigation.
"During the conference I indicated that I did not believe that Mr. Ramos was a threat to employees for the Capital," Praley wrote. The paper agreed not to pursue any charges.
"It was described as putting a stick in a beehive," he wrote.
Patti Perez, vice president of human resources firm Emtrain, says there's little downside for an employer in pressing a legitimate harassment case and leaving the matter to authorities.
"I do think that if an employer makes an assessment that a person could be a threat and could cause bodily harm, as an employer I would strongly encourage police to move forward," she said.
Thomas Marquardt, the former publisher of the Capital Gazette, who was named in Ramos' defamation suit, had serious concerns about the suspect but did not participate in that 2013 conference call, according to police. He said Thursday about Ramos, "I was seriously concerned he would threaten us with physical violence."
During a news conference Friday morning, Altomare said that the detective on the 2013 case has since retired and that he has not spoken with him since the shooting.
"In a perfect world, sure, we should have been" more aware of Ramos' history with the paper, the chief told reporters. "We were not. We had at least a threat call a day so it’s tough to keep up with them."
"Every day we talk to somebody who decides they don’t want to press charges," Altomare said.