Editor’s Note: In January 2023, families of victims and some of the survivors of the 2018 Capital Gazette newsroom shooting dismissed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit after reaching a settlement agreement. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is updating its Assault category documentation to include the five journalists who were plaintiffs in the suit and present during the attack. Four journalists and one newsroom employee were killed.
Photojournalist Paul W. Gillespie was working in the Capital Gazette offices on June 28, 2018, when a man armed with a shotgun entered the newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, shortly after 2:30 p.m. and shot multiple newspaper employees.
Gillespie, who did not respond to requests for comment in early 2023, said at the time he had just finished editing photos from an assignment when he heard gunshots. He told The Baltimore Sun he heard a crash as the newsroom’s glass doors shattered. He quickly curled up under a coworker’s desk to hide.
“I dove under that desk as fast as I could, and by the grace of God, he didn’t look over there,” he said. “I was curled up, trying not to breathe, trying not to make a sound, and he shot people all around me.”
The gunman walked past Gillespie’s hiding place and continued shooting. When there was a lull in the shots, Gillespie said he stood and ran for the front door; he jumped over the body of a colleague and through the broken glass as the gunman shot in his direction.
Gillespie then ran to a nearby bank where he told people to call 911.
Gillespie later testified that he felt the gunman’s shot pass by him. "I heard another gunshot go off, and I felt a breeze go past my head.”
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.
Of the 11 Capital Gazette employees in the newsroom during the shooting, five were killed and two injured. All journalists killed in or present for the attack are documented in the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker’s Assault category.
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 five life sentences without the possibility of parole, a life sentence for the attempted murder of Gillespie and an additional 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.
Gillespie told reporters outside the courthouse that he was happy the trial was over, but that he doesn’t think he’ll ever have closure.
“I lost five of my family members,” he said. “I was almost killed myself. It’s something that haunts me every day.”
In June 2021, the families of victims and five of the six survivors filed lawsuits against the Sun and Tribune Publishing, the Associated Press reported. (The Capital was purchased by Baltimore Sun Media, a subsidiary of Tribune Publishing, in 2014.)
The suits — one for wrongful death, the other for negligence — both argued that the shooting was preventable. The negligence lawsuit said that if “reasonable steps” had been taken, the gunman “would have been detected and stopped prior to entering The Capital’s newsroom, and he may never have attempted the assault at all.” The cases were consolidated in early 2022, according to the AP.
The parties reached a settlement agreement and filed a joint motion for dismissal on Jan. 3, 2023. An attorney for some of the plaintiffs told the AP that the details of the settlement are confidential. Gillespie did not respond to requests for comment at the time.