'Mentors and brilliant minds': Remembering the 5 people killed in the Capital Gazette shooting

ByKaylee Merchak WTVD logo
Friday, June 29, 2018
Maryland's Capital Gazette stands tall after shooting tragedy
Just hours after a gunman opened fire on employees of Maryland's Capital Gazette, the paper banned together to honor those five lives lost.

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland -- Just hours after a gunman opened fire on employees of Maryland's Capital Gazette, the paper banned together to honor the five lives lost.

A reporter who was not in the building at the time of the shooting vowed the outlet would print a paper on Friday.

The Capital Gazette fulfilled that promise, putting the five victims on the cover, along with their names and the headline "5 shot dead at The Capital."

Police said alleged shooter Jarrod Ramos, 38, fired a shotgun and armed smoke grenades at staffers, killing five, and was then swiftly taken into custody by officers who rushed into the building.

VIDEO: What we know about alleged Capital Gazette gunman

A gunman opened fire in a newspaper office in Maryland's capital Thursday, killing five people and wounding others before being taken into custody.

After the tragic loss, the paper took to Twitter to honor each victim. Here's what we know about them.

Editorial writer Gerald Fischman

Fischman has been described by former features editor Kathy Flynn as "the consummate newspaper professional."

He even used a hand-held crowd counter to count the number of words he'd written in an editorial. "He took ultimate care. He made sure that every sentence was exactly what he wanted to say," Flynn said.

Colleagues affectionately toyed with Fischman for his penchant for precision.

"He liked his blinds just so," Flynn recalled. "We'd mess with him by going in his office and making them askew."

Longtime editor and publisher Tom Marquardt also praised Fischman for his skills, which he attempted to test on a popular game show.

"He had ability that, I thought, deserved a higher calling than The Capital," Marquardt said. "He was a great writer. He was a really smart guy, so smart that he tried out for Jeopardy twice. But he couldn't get accepted because they didn't like his personality. That was Gerald's spin, anyway."

Editor Rob Hiaasen

Rob, 59, celebrated his 33rd wedding anniversary last week to wife Maria, a former journalist who is now an English teacher.

Maria turned 58 on Thursday. Speaking to the Florida newspaper the Sun Sentinel, she described how her husband had asked her if she wanted to open her birthday gift Thursday morning.

She told the outlet she wanted to wait until he got home from work, but he never made it.

Maria said her husband "was a tall man, 6-foot-5, but he was a giant not just in stature, but in character. He was just the best husband. He loves words, he loves humor. He loved journalism. He loved helping those young writers at the Gazette."

Rob listed the 10 best songs about rain in a recent column, writing, "Feel free to disagree. Feel free to be wrong. Yes, we're cranky. Aren't you in all this slop?

Maria told The Baltimore Sun her husband was also known as "Big Rob" when their children were in high school.

Although he was a mentor, Rob had a big moment with someone he looked up to, singer-songwriter James Taylor. Rob once told a story about nearly hyperventilating during an interview with Taylor.

Reporter and editor John McNamara

John was described as versatile by former Capital Gazette sports editor Gerry Jackson, who hired him years ago.

"He could write. He could edit. He could design pages. He was just a jack of all trades and a fantastic person," Jackson said.

In a recent Facebook post, John gave a thumbs-up review on documentaries about Mr. Rogers and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

"Seeing these two films will do you some serious good," he wrote. "Both are marvelous and moving. And, in these troubled times, when the forces of darkness seem to have gained the upper hand, it's nice to be reminded that there is still justice and kindness in the world. You can thank me later."

John was married to Andrea Chamblee, whom he met while attending the University of Maryland. They met at a bar after he covered a football game.

John came from a large Catholic family in Bethesda. Though he and his wife didn't have any children, they were devoted to each other.

"Our biggest argument was about who was lucky enough to have the other," Andrea said. "He was devoted to his friends and family. He was devoted to his craft, and he was devoted to me."

Sales assistant Rebecca Smith

Rebecca was new to the team, but her boss says she was already making a huge contribution to the paper by making sure the sales office ran smoothly.

"She was a very thoughtful person. She was kind and considerate, and willing to help when needed. She seemed to really enjoy to be working in the media business," Capital Gazette advertising director Marty Padden said.

On her Facebook page, Rebecca described herself as an "Endo Warrior" because she was a survivor of endometriosis.

Rebecca also said she was a "Dog Mom. Softball Fiance. Bonus Mom to the best kid ever."

Reporter Wendi Winters

Wendi had extensive journalism experience, but beyond the newsroom, she was a "proud Navy mom," a church youth adviser, a Red Cross volunteer and a Girl Scout leader who could "make a mean s'more."

Wendi's daughter Winters Geimer spoke about her as their family gathered late Thursday.

"My mother was a wonderful woman and a fantastic reporter," Geimer said. "Her life was a gift to everyone who knew her and the world will not be the same without her. We are grieving and trying to make sure all of us can be together to celebrate the life of our mother."

The five victims featured above the fold -"5 shot dead at The Capital."

Amid months of verbal and online attacks on the "fake news media" around the nation, the paper took a stand, leaving their Opinion section "blank."

"Today, we are speechless. This page is intentionally left blank today to commemorate victims of Thursday's shooting at our office: Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, Wendi Winters. Tomorrow this page will return to its steady purpose of offering our readers informed opinions about the world around them that they might be better citizens."

While authorities are still investigating Ramos' motives, Tom Marquardt, former editor and publisher of the paper, told ABC News that Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit in 2012 against the paper following a story about a stalking case in which Ramos was the defendant.

"He represented himself and took advantage of the legal system to keep the case alive for a long period of time during which he sued lawyers, judges, anybody who crossed his path and disagreed with him," Marquardt said.

Capital Gazette plans to carry on with their journalistic duties while carrying those lost along with them.