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Gunman to Be Charged with 5 Counts of Murder after Newspaper Shooting; Remembering Victims of 'Capital Gazette' Shooting. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired June 29, 2018 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[07:00:03] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Alisyn is off. Erica Hill joins me now. John Avlon here, as well.

Five shot dead, but "The Capital Gazette" will not be stopped. "I can tell you this," one reporter said. "We're putting out a damn paper." And they did.

"The Capital Gazette" in Annapolis, Maryland, put out a paper after five of its employees were killed. Five beloved, hard-working, underpaid employees murdered in the deadliest day for American journalism since September 11.

"The Gazette" has been updating all morning. They just posted the opinion page. It's heartbreaking. They left it blank to honor the victims, writing this: "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: And as we remember these five lives cut short, we're also following developments in the investigation here. 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 newspaper also a focus this morning. And a question about whether warning signs were missed.

Throughout all of this, it's impossible to ignore 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 now blaming Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, while others point to President Trump and his repeated attacks on the news media, calling the press as recently as Monday, the, quote, "enemy of the people."

CNN's Rene Marsh is live in Annapolis, Maryland, with the breaking details for us this morning.

Rene, good morning.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica.

You talked about the "Capital Gazette" and them putting out the paper. This is the front page of the paper. The five victims, the journalists targeted and shot dead in their own newsroom, all above the fold. I can tell you this morning, this tight-knit community is still shaken.

As for the shooter, we expect to see him for the first time in court at around 10:30 this morning. He faces five counts of first-degree murder.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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 shotgun 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 -- just continually shooting people.

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

WILLIAM KRAMPF, DEPUTY CHIEF, ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT: 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, 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?"

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

SELENE SAN FELICE, STAFF WRITER, "CAPITAL GAZETTE": I grabbed my purse, and I went to 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 -- that 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 "Gazette" office, 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.

Wendi 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.

[07:05:11] 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Our thanks to Rene for that report.

Joining us now is Terry Smith, a contributing columnist at "The Capital Gazette." Terry, thanks so much for being with us. We are so sorry for your loss. I know you lost very close friends. Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman. Just tell me about them.

TERRY SMITH, CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST, "THE CAPITAL GAZETTE": That's true. I worked regularly with Gerald Fischman, who was a gifted writer and a conscientious, terrific editor.

Rob Hiaasen was a delight. A very funny man, like his famous brother Carl Hiaasen. And just a pleasure to know and to work with and to be around. And they're a huge loss.

So -- so are the others. Wendi Winters, you mentioned and the others, just terrific people.

They were targeted because -- at least Gerald and Rob, occupied editor's offices on one side of an otherwise open newsroom that was totally vulnerable to a shooter. There was no security whatsoever.

You simply walked into what is a big office building, turned right, left. There were two glass doors, which he shot his way through, and then there's a big open newsroom with altogether 170 people in there, although you don't see them right away.

He was very deliberate in the -- the shooter was, in going to the left and down the row of editors' offices. First Rob, Gerald, and then to the office of Rick Hutzell, the senior editor, the top editor, who by chance, was three hours away in Ocean City, and the office was empty.

The rest of the shooting took place right there in that newsroom.

BERMAN: And it's open as it is because it's part of the community. I think part of what makes "The Capital Gazette" work is that it is part of the fabric of that community, correct?

SMITH: I think you're really right about that. I think the architecture, the layout and the openness were deliberate. It was an effort to make the paper and its people open to the community. Now obviously, they're going to have some grave security concerns about that. But I think you're right. I think it was symbolic.

BERMAN: When I saw the paper published this morning, I have to say I wasn't the least bit surprised. Still, it took my breath away. I wonder what your reaction was when he saw "The Capital Gazette" published mere hours after five of its employees were murdered.

SMITH: It was stunning, stunning to me. Not just the headline, not just the pictures across the top. But if you looked inside the editorial page, blank. And the first line, "We are speechless today." I thought it was extraordinary.

BERMAN: And then the last line -- and then the last line is "We will publish tomorrow for our readers that they might be better citizens." That struck me, as well.

SMITH: Exactly.

BERMAN: That's the mission of that paper.

SMITH: Very, very effective. I did speak with Rick Hutzell, the editor, as he was on his way back yesterday, three hours away in Ocean City. And from the first moment, he was determined to publish this morning, despite all that had gone on.

BERMAN: It's because that's what a newspaper does. That's what journalism is.

SMITH: Yes.

Berman: Which gets me to this question. Look, you have to be blind and have not have listened to anything for the last couple years to have not have witnessed the changing tenor in this country. Do you think that played a role here, or do you fear it puts journalism at risk?

SMITH: Yes. It's totally speculative what effect that had on Ramos, the shooter, obviously. But let's face it, the atmosphere has changed. It's acrimonious. It's -- there is a wide attack on the media going on. And we're in an era of repeated mass shootings.

Did either of those facts stimulate the shooter to do what he did yesterday? I cannot say. Just spoke with the police chief minutes ago here this morning. He

told me that they are still not receiving any useful information from the shooter, Ramos. He has been arraigned and jailed on no bond. But right now, he's not talking.

BERMAN: And we don't know if there was a direct connection there. But what we do know and what you know, obviously, from your work is that journalists are not the enemy of the people, correct?

SMITH: They are not the enemy of the people. They are the people, part of the people. And in my obviously biased view, their function is really important in a time especially like this, when from the very top, there is a full-scale war on the press and a war on the First Amendment, if you'd like.

And so I think it's never been more important. And in some ways, never more difficult.

BERMAN: I think that sums it up perfectly. Never more important, never more difficult.

Terry Smith, we thank you for being with us. We are very sorry for your loss this morning.

SMITH: My pleasure.

BERMAN: I mean, he could not have summed it up more succinctly. Never more important, never more difficult.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That is the truth of our jobs right now. And what a lot of reporters deal with is an unprecedented level of threats.

But what Terry also just said is that we're getting a place in a country where sometimes the First Amendment -- it's the First Amendment versus the Second Amendment. And that's incredibly dangerous.

This paper has been around since 1727 in some form or another. And -- and this is the deadliest newsroom shooting in American history. And you have to take the ratcheting up of rhetoric into account.

The purpose of this paper, as they said in an editorial, "that we might be better citizens." That is the purpose of all journalism at the end of the day. And attacks on the press, as the enemy of the American people, denigrates that, distracts it, distracts our civic organization. And we need to stay focused on that goal, all of us.

BERMAN: And it was Sarah Sanders who said it herself.

AVLON: Yes.

BERMAN: An attack on journalists is an attack on all Americans.

AVLON: That's right. That's right.

HILL: We will be right back, but as we take you to break, we do want to remember these five victims who were killed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:16:34] HILL: President Trump offering thoughts and prayers to the victims of "The Capital Gazette" shooting. One survivor telling Anderson Cooper that's not enough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAN FELICE: I'm not going to make this political, right? But we need more than prayers.

I appreciate the prayers. I was praying the entire time I was under that desk. I want your prayers, but I want something else. I just don't know what I want right now, right? But I'm going to need more than a couple days of news coverage and some thoughts and prayers. Because it's -- our whole lives have been shattered.

And so thanks for your prayers, but I couldn't give a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) about them if there's nothing else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Joining us now, CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI supervisory special agent Josh Campbell; and CNN political analyst Brian Karem, who's also, of course, the executive editor of Sentinel Newspapers and vice president of the Maryland Delaware D.C. Press Association.

Brian, through that role and, frankly just through your career, you knew four victims of this attack. And we want to be very clear. One of the things that we want to make sure we do this morning and as we move forward is remember those whose lives were lost. So let's start there, Brian.

BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's good to remember those people, because they were good journalists and they were also award- winning journalists. They were also compassionate, passionate journalists.

You don't take a job at a community newspaper for riches or enrichment. You take it because you feel a passion for what you're doing, for being involved in your community and informing people in your community. And all of those people had that.

Selene, who you heard on the phone with Anderson, has that passion. I'm very proud of her. She's a great young lady. She was an intern. She interned with my wife, and she applied for a job with me and took the job at "The Capital Gazette" instead. And that tells you these people are very -- let's not forget that, what we lost.

And so every time someone calls us -- that's what stings more than anything else. When you call us, you know, an enemy of the people or fake news. The majority of journalists are doing what those four did every day. And, you know, they described it as a war zone. And I'll disagree

with that to this extent. I've covered wars. When you go into a war zone, you're prepared for what may happen. You walk into your office in the "Capital Gazette" in Annapolis on any given day, you don't expect that you're going to be shot at. So it's worse than a war zone. It's unexpected. It's frightening. It's violent. And it doesn't belong in the United States of America, and it's scary.

BERMAN: Do you think the words that we hear too often now, that journalists are enemies of the people, do you think that in some way --

KAREM: Of course.

BERMAN: -- contributes to this? Explain.

KAREM: Without a doubt. It's -- and look, as I've said before, you know, I take the heartfelt tweet that Sarah put out, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, what she put out. I take that to heart.

But these people in the White House do not seem to understand that their words have meaning and their words have consequences. And that reporters are people.

They dehumanize us as they dehumanize immigrants, calling them animals. That's the way of a despot. That's the way of an autocrat. When you dehumanize other people and set them up so you can cleave them away, then what you've done is destroyed all of humanity. And that's -- that's the road we're on.

[07:20:00] You know, I think Carl Bernstein said if we're not in a constitutional crisis, it's imminent. I feel we're at a conscience crisis. We're at a crisis of humanity. How do we treat one another? Why do we treat each other this way?

And, you know, for the love of heavens, reporters are people. They live in a community. They're part of the community. You're trained to be a disinterested third-party observer. You question, you probe, you ask hard questions. That's not rude. That's not being illegitimate. That's not dehumanizing.

It's when you return those questions with that type of deference, with that type of indignation, with that type of anger to us and dehumanize us, that there are real results to be paid.

And those four people -- those five people -- those four reporters and Rebecca Smith, the sales associate, those five people paid that price yesterday for what? For what?

And then to be dehumanized further, you know, with Sean Hannity. Sean Hannity, as I said also, he does not have the wherewithal and does not have the experience, nor the ability, nor the talent to be a community journalist, where you have to write the story, cover the story, lay out the story, talk to sources, be involved in -- more than 40 hours a week, involved in your community. It's very easy to pontificate sitting here, but it's very hard to do

that job if you don't have the ability to do it. And that's very sad that people don't recognize it.

HILL: It is. You know, as you've said and others have said this morning, that is not a job that you get into for the money.

KAREM: Absolutely.

HILL: Or really for the glory. It's because you love it and you understand just how important that role is.

Josh, as we're looking at this, and as we talk about the heated rhetoric and we talk about the rise in attacks, how do you monitor something like that? And how do you differentiate between somebody just throwing out smoke on Twitter and legitimate concerns, legitimate threats?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It's a great question. And that is always the struggle. At what point does speech cross the line into illegality, into becoming a threat and becoming something that law enforcement should be focused on?

One thing that's interesting here, and you know, obviously, we know that the rhetoric is overheated in the nation right now. It will be interesting to see as this investigation plays out, whether there was any factor of recent, you know, days, anything that happened that actually triggered this person.

We know we've been reporting on this all night, gathering information. That it appears as though this has been a, you know, longer term issue that this person had, you know, specific to this paper; and we're continuing to gather those details. But the question is always what caused him to act today?

And you know, looking at some of those past statements, there was -- you know, he was involved with the courts. He was involved in the judicial system. And, you know, there was nothing that actually rose to the level where law enforcement said, "We're going to take this person into custody because of these words." But something happened recently, and that's what we need to look at.

I will tell you that, you know, one thing, and again, we've been covering this all night. And our job in law enforcement and our job in journalism is to stare at humanity and try to make some sense of it. And I think there are already lessons learned here. Talk about a stark difference in humanity.

On one hand you have, you know, someone who was a coward, essentially, someone who decided that the way to air his grievance was to pick up a weapon. And on the other hand, you have these brave journalists who are showing up today to do their job to tell their story.

Now, I was writing about 2:30 this morning, trying to find the right word to describe this person. And the only word that I can come up with is he's a loser. And I don't say that as a cheap shot, because I can't think of a better word. He's a loser because he lost. He lost control of himself. He lost control of his ability to define his story. He will forever be defined by someone else, if we remember him at all.

I mean, think back to Parkland. I can't remember who the shooter was, and I covered that story. I was with Erica down there in Santa Fe covering the tragic high school shooting. I barely remember the person that did it. But, you know, that's the way it is. And I think that's going to be this guy's fate, too.

KAREM: Well, that's sad.

CAMPBELL: And I'd close, finally if I can, that you know, if you decide that the ability -- that the decision you're going to make is to air your grievance by picking up a weapon rather than having a discussion, you lose.

BERMAN: I will say it's notable he picked up a weapon. But the journalists at "The Capital Gazette," they picked up their pens within hours.

KAREM: Amen to that, John. You know what? And look, we live with those threats every day. And I mean, we get them at our newspapers. We have a variety of them. They've increased; they've spiked over the last year and a half.

And the young reporters who work for me come in every day. They take pen to paper. They cover city council meetings. They cover high school sports. They cover the state house. We cover the federal government, because we're in Montgomery and Prince George's County and it's right adjacent to the district. They walk in there every day with nothing but a pen and pad and take it upon themselves to tell other people who live in our community what's going on.

BERMAN: And I will say, that pen and pad isn't their protection; it's your protection.

KAREM: Absolutely.

BERMAN: It is America's protection. And that is why it's so important.

And John, I want to make one thing clear. You know, we do not know what drove this maniac to kill the people he did. We're not saying it happened because of "X, Y, Z."

[07:25:06] AVLON: Exactly.

BERMAN: What we're saying is it happened while we are hearing "X, Y, Z." And it's important to note that.

AVLON: That's, I think, critical, because you know, as we discussed before, this is the deadliest newsroom shooting in American history. And he did it with a shotgun. You know, we've had the -- this paper has been around since 1727. We've had the Second Amendment for most of that time. Something is different. Something has changed. And when the young woman in the newsroom said, you know, "I don't want

your thoughts and prayers. They're not enough. I appreciate them, but they're not enough."

It's also worth, you know, reflecting on the fact, as we do after many of these mass shootings, that there are unhinged, unstable individuals in every country in the world. But this is the only country where things like this happen on a regular basis.

Yes, there was "Charlie Hebdo." That appears to be a different sort of newsroom attack. But we need to keep our eye on the ball and realize that what's happening to our civic conversation is different. The pen is still mightier than the sword.

KAREM: Yes.

AVLON: But what is happening is different, and that should require a little bit of culpability, and conscience and soul searching on the folks who are ratcheting up the rhetoric to try to make people think that the press is the enemy of the American people.

KAREM: Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Just because something followed something doesn't mean it was caused by something. You know, correlation is not causation.

But all of this does occur at a time when threats against reporters have never been greater, where the -- you know, the -- calling us enemies of the people and fake news certainly emboldens those who are mentally unstable.

HILL: And it also -- there is -- just really quickly, one of the things, too, even just from Jim Acosta talking about what happened with him --

KAREM: Yes.

HILL: -- at the last rally earlier. There was a woman who said, "Stop asking questions. Ask one question and then be done."

It's important to remind people why the questions are important, and one question is not enough, especially if you don't have an answer.

KAREM: Or if you ask a question, you're called rude or disrespectful. That's not rude or disrespectful. That's doing your job. And there are people -- I get tired of that, too. People say, "Oh, you know, you have to -- why are you yelling at the president?"

Well, it would be nice if he, you know, would hold still and talk to us.

BERMAN: Yes.

KAREM: Sometimes the only time you get to ask him a question is when you're yelling at him going to a helicopter. That's the way it is.

BERMAN: And I just want to put up, as we say, thank you, Brian Karem, so much. Josh, thank you to you, as well.

Let me just restate what Sarah Sanders said in what was a poignant statement from the White House yesterday. "A violent attack on innocent journalists doing their job is an attack on every American."

Thank you, Sarah, for that.

Coming up for us, a volatile hearing on capitol Hill. Republican lawmakers going head to head with Christopher Wray and Rod Rosenstein. Let me tell you something: the deputy attorney general, he came to play. We'll talk to someone who was in that hearing, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)