The man police arrested on June 28 for the lethal mass shooting at a Maryland daily newspaper repeatedly engaged OC Weekly as he stalked a daily reporter who’d left the Capital Gazette and landed at the Orange County Register.
Twitter records show Jarrod Ramos, the accused killer of five people in Annapolis, reached out to me in June 2014 and, when I ignored him, he turned to then-Weekly editor Gustavo Arellano.
There’s no mystery for Ramos’ interest in the Weekly: Eric Hartley, a target of his ranting, was a competitor of mine on the courthouse beat.
There’s also no mystery about what prompted the obsession with this solid, no-nonsense reporter: At the Gazette in 2011, Hartley wrote accurately about Ramos’ criminal conviction stemming from the relentless harassment of a woman who’d spurned his affection on Facebook.
Ramos’ obsession with the Gazette ended, at least in court, with a losing, 2012 defamation lawsuit against Hartley but continued for years in the form of online stalking of the journalist.
He created a Twitter account incorporating Hartley’s name as well as his image and sent him repeated messages encouraging him to commit suicide and hinting at homicide.
“[I] will take glee when you kill yourself,” Ramos wrote in Sept. 2014.
Three months earlier, he sent a Tweet stating, “Hello, Eric Thomas Hartley. I want to play a game. It’s called ‘go f – – k yourself.’ If you survive, your test begins.”
He included a link a YouTube video titled, “Oh yes, there will be blood.”
In another message, Ramos told Hartley, “Do it now; report to hell.”
Hartley was not at the June 28 crime scene.
He now works as an editor for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.
Those murdered at the Gazette were: Rebecca Smith, 34, sales assistant; Robert Hiaasen, 59, assistant editor and columnist; Gerald Fischman, 61, editorial page editor; John McNamara, 56, editor and writer; and Wendi Winters, 65, columnist.
Maryland prosecutors, who have filed five murder counts, told reporters this morning the shooting was the result of extensive planning.