Five people were killed on Thursday after a man armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades burst into a newspaper office in the US city of Annapolis and opened fire, authorities said. Police described as a “targeted attack” the incident that took place at the offices of The Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland.
“I don’t know what to say other than our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, and we take comfort knowing that they are in God’s embrace,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh said.
Several other people were “gravely injured,” William Krampf, acting chief of the Anne Arundel County Police Department, told a news briefing.
The attacker is in custody and police spokesman Lt. Ryan Frashure said the department had no other suspects. He described the person in custody as a white male armed with a shotgun.
Schuh said police found the shooter hiding under a table inside the newspaper office, which is located inside a building that houses a range of other tenants, including at least one medical practice.
“We did recover what we thought may have been an explosive device,” Krampf said. “That has been taken care of. We have members of the bomb squad on scene. We don’t anticipate having any more explosive devices.”
He said that police did not yet know the shooter’s motive, but “we know that there were threats sent to the Gazette through social media.” “We’re trying to confirm what account that was and we’re trying to confirm who actually sent them,” Krampf added.
The suspect “has not been very forthcoming” with information, Schuh said.
“To my knowledge, there was no verbal aspect to the incident where he declared his motives or anything else, so at this point we just don’t know,” the county official said.
A reporter for the historic daily, which predates the United States, tweeted a chilling account of the attack.
“Gunman shot through the glass door to the office and opened fire on multiple employees. Can’t say much more and don’t want to declare anyone dead, but it’s bad,” crime reporter Phil Davis wrote in a message posted after the shooting stopped.
“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” he said.
Capital Gazette editor Jimmy DeButts tweeted that he was “devastated & heartbroken. Numb.” “I’m in no position to speak, just know @capgaznews reporters & editors give all they have every day. There are no 40 hour weeks, no big paydays – just a passion for telling stories from our community,” DeButts wrote.
Chase Cook, a reporter at the newspaper, said the shooting would not stop The Capital — the local print edition — from going to press.
“I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow,” he tweeted.
Gracie Rustin, a dental assistant who was in the middle of a procedure on the second floor of the building when the attack took place, heard “loud noises” but did not immediately realise it was a shooting.
Then police rushed in and “were like, ‘Leave, leave, leave!'” Rustin told AFP.
President Donald Trump, who has been at loggerheads with much of the media since taking office, offered a brief statement on the incident, also via Twitter.
“Prior to departing Wisconsin, I was briefed on the shooting at Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Thank you to all of the First Responders who are currently on the scene,” he said.
Prior to departing Wisconsin, I was briefed on the shooting at Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Thank you to all of the First Responders who are currently on the scene.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2018
Authorities in several US cities, including New York, responded to the violence in Maryland by sending police to offices of media outlets.
The New York Police Department said that its deployment of counter-terrorism officers was based not on any specific threat, but “out of an abundance of caution until we learn more about the suspect and motives behind the Maryland shooting.”
The shooting revived memories of a 2015 incident in Roanoke, Virginia in which two journalists were shot dead during a live broadcast on local television.
“Every shooting like this is horrific but one that occurs in a place of journalism is particularly disturbing and brings back the flood of memories of that tragic day for me,” said Andy Parker, whose daughter Alison was one of the Roanoke victims.
“A violent attack on innocent journalists doing their job is an attack on every American,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders tweeted.
Several lawmakers also weighed in.
“My heart is with the families, friends and loved ones of the victims as we learn more about this terrible situation,” Chris Van Hollen, the state’s junior senator said. “We must unite to end the violence.” “The senseless attack on a Maryland newspaper today is sickening. God bless these journalists,” House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted.