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Gunman Kills 5 at Maryland Newspaper. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired June 29, 2018 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:59:01] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Friday, June 29, 6 a.m. here in New York. Alisyn is off. Erica Hill here again today. John Avlon with us, as well.

"I can tell you this, we are putting out a damn paper." The perfect words to describe the spirit of "The Capital Gazette" in Annapolis, Maryland. "We are putting out a damn paper." The perfect words to describe just what was assaulted in the deadliest day for journalism in the U.S. since September 11. You're looking at it right now: "5 Shot Dead." "The Capital Gazette" reporting on itself. Five shot dead. And they've been updating the reporting all morning. A paper that can't be stopped even its five -- even as five of its employees, innocent, hard-working beloved journalists, were killed. These five people will be the focus of our reporting this morning.

They did put the paper out. But look at this. They left the editorial page blank to honor the victims, writing, "Tomorrow this page will return to its steady purpose of offering our readers informed opinion about the world around them that they might be better citizens."

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: You see just the names there. As we remember those five lives cut short, we are also following developments in the investigation. The suspect is now charged with five counts of first- degree murder.

Police say this was a targeted attack. The gunman's long-running feud with the paper a focus. Were warning signs missed?

It's also impossible to ignore this morning the fact that this deadly shooting comes at a time where anti-media rhetoric is at a dangerous fever pitch. FOX News host Sean Hannity blaming Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, while others point to President Trump and his repeated attacks on the media, calling the press as recently as Monday the, quote, "enemy of the people."

CNN's Rene Marsh is live in Annapolis, Maryland, with more on the breaking details -- Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erica, good morning. You mentioned the five people who lost their lives and you mentioned the journalists at "The Capital Gazette." We actually have the morning paper this morning. And the five victims are on the front page. These journalists working in the midst of this tragedy. And now, we are now waiting to see the shooter for the first time later on this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Several shots have been fired. A possible shotgun. At least 10 shots heard.

MARSH (voice-over): A terrifying scene unfolding inside "The Capital Gazette" newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland. A gunman deploying smoke grenades and opening fire with a gunshot in an attack police say was targeted.

PHIL DAVIS, REPORTER, "CAPITAL GAZETTE": He shot through the front door. The glass shattered. He was going down our newsroom, starting from the front, and yes, just continually shooting people.

MARSH: Sources tell CNN the suspect is Jarrod Warren Ramos. He's now behind bars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This person was prepared to shoot people. His intent was to cause harm.

MARSH: Journalists inside the newsroom describing the scene as a war zone.

DAVIS: At some point when I was listening to him reload, you know, are we all going to die? Not necessarily, "Is he done?" Is he not going to leave until everyone in here is dead?

MARSH: Some fleeing for their lives, also hiding under their desks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I grabbed my purse and I went from the back door, which I was only a couple steps away from, and it was locked. John was still trying to get out the door. I'm not sure what -- I'm not sure exactly in the next couple seconds what happened. But then I know that John was standing up. I heard the footsteps. And he -- John got shot.

MARSH: Authorities responding to the scene within 60 seconds and apprehending the shooter, who was hiding under a desk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's inside the main office, where all the victims are. We got him.

MARSH: Authorities tell CNN the suspect had a longstanding grudge against the newspaper. In 2012, he filed a defamation lawsuit against "The Capital Gazette" after they published an article detailing a case where he pleaded guilty to harassing a former classmate on social media. The judge dismissed his suit, citing lack of evidence.

A law enforcement source says this Twitter handle is believed to be the suspect's account. He tweeted several times about the paper and author of the article about him, writing in December 2015, quote, "Journalists, hell awaits." That journalist no longer works at the paper. The attack killing five "Gazette" employees and injuring three others. Wendy Winters was a 65-year-old mother of four. "The Gazette"

describes her as a prolific writer who was beloved by the community she covered closely for years. Assistant editor Rob Hiaasen, a mentor to all, who celebrated his 33rd wedding anniversary last week. His brother remembering him as "one of the most gentle and funny people I've ever known."

Thirty-four-year-old sales assistant Rebecca Smith was a new hire to the paper who loved spending time with her family. Editorial page editor Gerald Fischman was known for bringing a quirky voice and clever, wicked pen to the paper. A quiet, endearing figure in a newsroom full of characters. And John McNamara, known as Mac, was a staff writer who worked his dream job, sports reporting. He's remembered for his razor wit and being a loyal friend.


MARSH: Well, the shooter is charged with five counts of first-degree murder. Each count is considered a felony. And he will be in court today around 10:30 this morning. Of course, CNN will be there.

But back to those victims. I know you'll be speaking to the mayor in just a second.

But this community, in talking to the officials here, they all knew some or one of these victims here, because they were so involved in covering this community. So just 24 hours later, this is nowhere near -- this community is nowhere near feeling any better than they did. They're still trying to recoup from this just awful tragedy.

Back to you, John.

[06:05:12] BERMAN: Right. Rene Marsh with us in Annapolis. Rene, thanks so much.

And joining us now is the mayor of Annapolis, Gavin Buckley.

Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us. Know that we are thinking about you and your community this morning here in New York. I was in Annapolis just two weeks ago. Yes, it's the capital of Maryland, but it feels like a small place, like a very interwoven place. How is this loss being felt this morning?

GAVIN BUCKLEY (D), MAYOR, ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND: I mean, it's very personal for us. We all know these journalists. We interact with them on a daily basis. I'd spoken to the editor of "The Capital" 20 minutes before we got the notification that there was an active shooter. And I'd had lunch with him probably a couple of weeks before. He was out of town, or I'm sure he would have been one of the victims. I can't imagine what he's going through. These journalists were like his family. He's lost some children. And I think it's going to be a long time before he can recover from such a tragic event.

BERMAN: When you saw the paper come out this morning, when you saw that "The Capital Gazette" still went to press, still reporting for the community, I wonder what your feelings were?

BUCKLEY: I can't speak highly enough for these guys. I mean, their dedication. And what is so frustrating is that, you know, these guys don't make a lot of money. You know, they just -- they're journalists because they love being journalists.

And this paper is not some right-wing paper or left-wing paper. It -- the comments on local news, the comments on things that we care about are kids' sports teams, a kid cat stuck up a tree and all the local news that we need to hear and the national news that we need to hear. But -- but they care about us. And so it's just a tragic scene.

BERMAN: I understand you had an active shooter drill just last week.

BUCKLEY: So yes, I -- a week before, roughly, we'd done an active shooter drill. I stood in the hallway with some of my colleagues from city hall. We had seen the people with fake makeup on, you know. They had different variations on injuries. A head shot, a shot to the stomach. A shot to the -- flesh wound. And we watched a shooter come in through the door, a simulation of that. We'd heard a simulation of gunfire.

And then the police officers had gone towards the scene of the crime. And then they had taken down the shooter in that drill. We didn't know that a week later police officers would be doing the thing in real life. And I can tell you, I think that lives were saved because they did that. In that drill, people had to step over bodies to get to where the shooter was. And that's exactly what happened yesterday.

BERMAN: And I think everyone is grateful to the first responders there. They undoubtedly saved lives, from everything we're hearing.

What does it say to you that this could happen in Annapolis? What does it say to you that this did happen at "The Capital Gazette"?

BUCKLEY: I mean, this is a small town. Everybody knows each other. Our population is about 38,000. The county population is about 500,000. It's a tight community. It's a Mayberry kind of place. You wouldn't expect anybody to come this unhinged, and you would definitely not expect someone to be that angry. And we are questioning why people are still tightly wound these days, why people are so angry. And how could you be angry at just a local newspaper like this?

BERMAN: Do you think the tenor right now in this country and the attacks on the media could have played some role or, at a minimum, contribute to an atmosphere where this type of thing might happen?

BUCKLEY: I think that, you know, we've got to stop hating one another just because we have a different opinion. I mean, that -- we're so polarized nationally that people have got to start to come together.

I got into politics because I wanted to sort of achieve that goal, that you know -- and I believe on a local level, you know, you can be the stopgap. You know? You can bring people together. Because it doesn't matter if you have a "D" or an "R" in front of your name in a local election. You just care about the same things. You know, you want someone to care about taking the trash out. You want a good school. You want clean water. We all want the same things, and I think we're losing sight of that.

BERMAN: And I think that's what "The Capital Gazette" represents. And I think that's what's so important to remember here. Their job was to hold the community together. They were the ones every day telling you about the trials and tribulations of the guy or the woman down the street.

BUCKLEY: It was very local and -- obviously. And I mean, I can't say enough about these guys.

I saw journalists in the -- the mayhem of the journalists' pall (ph) that was here, we haven't seen this many cameras and this many journalists in the city that I can ever remember. But in the background, you would see "Capital" reporters there.

And then, actually, at the scene of the crime, the first responders of the city, the guys that stepped over the bodies and got to the shooter and made him drop his weapon, they were still in the field hours and hours later, making sure things were secure, because they love this community.

BERMAN: Mayor Gavin Buckley of Annapolis, Maryland, again, our thoughts are with you this morning. Please let us know how we can help, and thank you to the first responders there.

BUCKLEY: Thank you so much. Thank you.

You know, that mayor obviously still dealing with the aftermath there, noting how the first responders were working hours later. Noting how the reporters -- and we've talked about this -- from "The Capital Gazette" reporting on themselves, even as they're watching their friends murdered.

HILL: And -- and what's remarkable, too, is that we're hearing again and again how tight-knit this community was. It's understandable for local officials and journalists to know each other, obviously, in a town. We need to work together.

But this went deeper than that. This is a paper that was -- is absolutely a part of this community. And to hear the mayor talk about the fact that, look, we're all in this together. We all have the same goal at the end of the day. We want good schools and clean water, and we want our trash picked up. There's a conversation that needs to happen.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There is. And you know, the last line of the very brief note they put on the editorial page today is "that we might be better citizens." And the editorial page editor was a man named Gerald Fischman, in the obituary that his own paper wrote for him today, it recounted a city council woman saying, "He treated every city council race like it was a presidential race." That "He asked tough questions and knew my record." That kind of local civic commitment is the opposite of being the enemy

of the American people. And this rhetoric, while not directly responsible, is really ratcheting up threats against journalists that we deal with on a daily basis. It's been described as an epidemic. And this incident, I think, offers us the ability to reflect on the real purpose of journalism. Is that we might be better citizens.

BERMAN: No small news. There's no big news. There's news.


BERMAN: And it's designed to make us all better.

We're going to be talking about this all morning. We're going to be remembering the victims all morning. And as we go to break, we will leave you with some images of those who were lost.


HILL: Police are calling the newsroom shooting at "The Capital Gazette" newspaper a targeted attack. Five journalists killed on the job in a matter of seconds.

Survivor of the shooting, courts and crime reporter Phil Davis, spoke with Anderson Cooper last night.


DAVIS: Just trying to stay quiet, hoping that the glow of my computer screen didn't point out the fact that I was hiding under my desk, hoping that you know, the various buzzings on my phone wouldn't put out my, you know, position to him and ultimately try to get -- him try to find out where I was. And, you know, at some point when I was listening to him reload, it's, you know, "Are we all going to die?" It's not necessarily, "Is he done?" It's "Is he not going to leave until everyone in here is dead?"


HILL: Joining us now, CNN political analyst and the executive editor of Sentinel Newspaper Brian Karem, who knew some of the victims. CNN counterterrorism analyst and former FBI senior intelligence advisor Phil Mudd is also with us.

Brian, we want to start with you.


HILL: We really want to focus on these lives who were lost today. These are people you knew?

KAREM: Yes. Four out of five of them.

HILL: Essentially part of your family.

KAREM: Four out of the five of them I knew. I didn't know them all very well. I knew them through the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Press Association. We're -- we're a small little group. I'm the vice president of that group. And "The Capital Gazette" is one of the best newspapers in the region. It's much like the two newspapers I run. It's a community newspaper. And let me tell you a little bit about those people.

I mean, you know, we sit here on national television. They sat there in a community newsroom. And they're underpaid; they're overworked. Many of them do several jobs covering sports, covering local high school sports, covering a county fair, and covering a city council meeting, having to edit the copy. Mentoring young reporters, much as Robert did, and I know John and Gerald did the same thing and Wendi Winters, as well. Those four people were all mentors to young reporters.

One of the young reporters there that was on Anderson last night, Celine, she -- she interviewed with me to work for me. She was an intern of my wife's at the Council for Advance and Support of Education. We're a small close-knit family.

And this is what journalism is at its basic level. Telling the stories of a community, making sure that people are informed. And it really hurts me to no end to have to listen to someone like Sean Hannity, you know, politicize this and others a little bit you size it. Let's keep it real.

The person that is responsible for this is the one that's in custody. And the overriding issue of whether or not you have -- you allow someone who has a mental health issue and sprays it all over his social media page to have a gun is another issue.

And the fact that you have the president of the United States calling us all the enemy of the people and fake news and inflaming those who are mentally questionable is also an issue.

But -- but today the issue is look at what we lost. And those four reporters are -- I mean, the very basic -- at the basis level what we do as journalists. And they deserve better.

And can you imagine having to go back in to work today at "The Capital Gazette" and -- and have to do that job? And it says something for those people that they do that job. And what we do every day is do that job. So whether you're working at a newspaper or whether you're working in television, you do your job every day, no matter what.

[06:20:04] BERMAN: And it wasn't even going in today. It was going in last night.

KAREM: Last night.

BERMAN: It was going in minutes, hours after it happened.

KAREM: While it was happening, covering it.

BERMAN: You do your job. They put out that damn paper, as they themselves said. KAREM: I couldn't be prouder. I mean, that's what we do.

BERMAN: In the face of the spin, as you put it, in the face of those who within hours of it were trying to put some kind of political bent. And you mentioned Sean Hannity. And Brian, I don't want to pour salt in the wound. You said you don't want to hear it, but I'm going to play it so people know what you were talking about.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I've been saying now for days that something horrible is going to happen because of the rhetoric. Really, Maxine? You want people to create -- "Call your friends, get in their faces." And Obama said that too. "Get in their faces, call them out. Call your friends. You know, get protesters. Follow them into restaurants and shopping malls" and wherever else she said.


KAREM: Well, you know what, John, Sean Hannity doesn't have the ability to work at a community newspaper. He doesn't have the talent for it. He doesn't have the temerity for it. And his display on television shows exactly what he's made of. He couldn't make it in a community journalism newsroom. So he can kiss my big fat -- ask me no more questions, I'll tell you no more lies. It angers me.

BERMAN: I can understand why. Given how much time he devotes to questioning journalism and questioning facts that are reported every day. And for him to go on, within the hours after that --

AVLON: Yes. And to say, he's been warning for some time about the escalating rhetoric?

BERMAN: Right. You're right, John.

AVLON: I mean, this is somebody who has been excusing escalating rhetoric that we have seen. I mean, the president of the United States this week, as in many past weeks, calling the press the enemy of the American people. His acolytes echoing that and ratcheting it up, including Milo Yiannopoulos, who said he was only joking when he said he was waiting for vigilantes to shoot up newsrooms.

This is the deadliest newsroom attack in U.S. history.

KAREM: And it's not -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

AVLON: Go ahead, Brian.

KAREM: You know, you make probably the most valid point that we all need to take notice of. It's the rhetoric.

And look, I got honest -- honest sentiment from members of the White House press staff yesterday, who said they were very sorry for the loss, and I believe them. But what I -- what I find hard to understand is the disconnect between their rhetoric and reality. I honestly believe they feel bad for what happened. But I honestly

also believe they don't understand that it's not a game. That their rhetoric has -- words have consequences. Words have meaning. And you inflame people. And you may not necessarily mean it. And I honestly don't think the president of the United States or any members of his staff actually mean to do bodily harm to reporters. But you inflame and embolden those who do, which is why, in a civilized society, you don't go there. And I don't think they get that.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think one of the transitions we've seen in recent years is something I still find fascinating and don't understand. We used to put together political leadership and character, including how you comment publicly, what your rhetoric is, how aggressive you are.

We've seen recently that people are starting to say, if you accomplish a mission I think you should accomplish in a political realm, it's OK if you're aggressive in the public sphere. It's OK if you say things that are inappropriate about women, or judges, or journalists. We've somehow -- and this has happened, I think, relatively recently -- gone away from saying whether you're in the Congress, whether you're in the statehouse, whether you're in the Oval Office, that you should represent values we should teach a third grader, including how you speak in the public space. Just -- I don't know how recently it's been that we seem to say, "Well, it's OK if you don't."

BERMAN: So Phil, danger is your business. You worked in the FBI investigating stuff. Is this rhetoric dangerous? Do you see, maybe not a direct connection connection to this case -- we don't know -- but do you see a connection in danger here?

MUDD: I do, because in my world I used to go back. And my world started in the world of counterterrorism, obviously a lot -- a long distance from what we're dealing with today. But a lot of the people, as I saw the world of counterterror evolve from the core al Qaeda people, and believe me, there is sort of a connection here to what we we saw in ISIS. Had to do with validation.

Somebody looking at a message they saw on TV and saying, "I'm angry. I'm angry at the news media. I'm angry at a military recruitment base. I'm angry at a government building. And these people who were speaking with heated rhetoric give me validation to go do something to act on my anger."

HILL: It's easier to access, too.

MUDD: Absolutely.

HILL: It's easier to find that validation now online.

AVLON: Of course.

HILL: And I think that's -- I mean, you could confirm this, but that's also a major part of it. That it's so easy to find even that one person who agrees with you or who continues to, maybe in someone's view, legitimize what they're thinking, that it's OK to keep doing this.

BERMAN: And I will say, with Mudd here, you're talking about the connection to counterterror and terrorism here. The last time I covered a newsroom attack was in Paris, was "Charlie Hebdo." When they went in and shot up a newsroom there. That's the first thing I thought of when this happened yesterday.

KAREM: Je suis Charlie. That's exactly right.

AVLON: Je suis Charlie, yes. The International Federation of Journalists put out a report the end of last year, saying that the threats at journalists have reached epidemic levels. And I'm saying that's we, as journalists, I think, all experiences. There are a lot of threats directed at us. Mostly on social media, unhinged people. Perhaps not intentional. Usually reflections of group think.

But it's when it jumps. And what Phil is saying that I think is really important is the fact that the deadliest newsroom shooting in American history occurred yesterday. This paper was founded in 1727. That is, you know, roughly 70 years before the Second Amendment. We've had the Second Amendment the entire time.

But all of a sudden, this tenor and this tone seems to be inspiring some people darkly. And that's a dangerous warning to all of us to be more responsible in our rhetoric.

BERMAN: I just want to say -- and Brian -- hang on one second, Brian. And you can comment on this too. Brian, you did note that you have heard from people inside the White House. The president hasn't reached out to journalists, per se, as far as we know. But Sarah Sanders did put out a statement that was --

KAREM: Yes, it was very heartfelt.

BERMAN: -- pitch perfect. Let me read it to you.

You know, she says she strongly condemns the evil act of senseless violence in Annapolis, Maryland. "A violent attack on innocent journalists doing their job is an attack on every American. Our prayers are with the victims and their friends and families."

And that's the key point. An attack on innocent journalists is an attack on every American, Brian.

KAREM: And that touched me. And I -- I sent her an e-mail and thanked her for that. Because, you know, I lost friends.

But to John's point, we have seen a spike in threats against us since Donald Trump's election. There isn't a day that goes by that the two newspapers that I run, we're not left dealing with -- we are left dealing with a variety of threats. I've had personal threats against me. It's something that you live with over the years. But I've notice a marked increase since Trump's election.

And as Phil said, it's that emboldenment (ph) of -- you know, it's the validation that you get when someone speaks that kind of rhetoric. "Enemy of the people," "fake news," over and over and over again. And if you're of a questionable mental stability, that validates anything that you want to do. And so that's very scary for all of us, and we are in very scary times.

BERMAN: All right. Brian, Phil, thanks so much.

HILL: As we continue this morning, we're also going to check in on what happened yesterday in Washington. Rod Rosenstein facing some tough questioning and fighting back.