U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Capital Gazette doors shattered by armed gunman

Incident Details

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

A police car blocks the road in front of the Capital Gazette newsroom on June 29, 2018, a day after a gunman opened fire at the newspaper, killing five people and injuring several others in Annapolis, Maryland.

— REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
June 28, 2018

A gunman shot his way into the Capital Gazette newsroom on June 28, 2018, ultimately killing five and injuring two in addition to damaging the offices.

Shortly after 2:30 p.m., a man armed with a shotgun appeared at the double-glass doors to the newsroom, The Baltimore Sun reported. He pulled on the doors twice and, finding them locked, shot out the right-hand glass.

Anthony Messenger, a reporting intern at the time, told TODAY that when he heard the first pop he thought it was fireworks.

“I turned and looked over my shoulder toward the front of the room, toward the entrance, and I saw some faces that looked concerned,” he said. “I saw that the glass doors that open into our office were blown out.”

NPR reported that the shooter methodically moved through the reception area and down the main hallway dividing the office, firing again and again.

The gunman called police at 2:38 p.m., saying that he was done shooting and that he would surrender, according to Maryland Matters. Officers entered the Capital Gazette offices at 2:44 p.m.

The Baltimore Sun reported that of the journalists and media workers in the Capital Gazette offices that day, five were killed and two were injured. The five killed:

  • Rob Hiaasen, columnist and assistant editor
  • Gerald Fischman, editorial page editor
  • John McNamara, community news and sports reporter
  • Rebecca Smith, advertising sales assistant
  • Wendi Winters, community news reporter and columnist

All journalists killed in or present for the attack on the Capital Gazette newsroom are documented in the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker’s Assault category.

Messenger told TODAY that when they were leaving the offices it was in “shambles.”

The ground-floor newsroom of the Capital Gazette was home to reporters for both The Capital, a daily newspaper covering Annapolis, and The Maryland Gazette, a twice-weekly paper focused on state news. The shooting was the deadliest single attack on journalists in United States history, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The gunman was convicted on 23 counts in July 2021, the Capital Gazette reported. He was sentenced on Sept. 28, 2021, to six life sentences — five without the possibility of parole — plus 345 years in prison, all to be served consecutively.

In announcing the sentence, Judge Michael Wachs said the defendant was getting what he deserved. “To say the defendant showed a callous and cruel disregard for the sanctity of human life is simply an understatement,” Wachs said.

The Washington Post reported that following the attack, the Capital Gazette was temporarily moved to a former opera house at the University of Maryland. In July 2019, the newsroom relocated to a building with enhanced security and bulletproof walls, but the stay was short-lived. The offices shuttered in early 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and permanently closed that August.

Editor’s Note: In January 2023 details around two lawsuits became public, at which point the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker updated its documentation of the events to include the newsroom damage and the journalists present during the newsroom shooting as well as those killed.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].