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.
Reporter Selene San Felice was working in the Capital Gazette offices on June 28, 2018, when a man armed with a shotgun entered the newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, and shot multiple newspaper employees.
San Felice, who declined to comment when contacted in early 2023, testified in 2021 that when the shooting first began, she thought a vase had broken. She then realized the glass doors to the office had been shattered by a shotgun blast. The shooter entered the offices just after 2:30 p.m.
She and sports intern Anthony Messenger ran toward the back exit of the office, but found that the door had been barricaded from the outside. The pair then hid under a desk in the back corner of the office, Messenger told TODAY in an interview a day after the attack.
Messenger called 911 and texted a friend before passing the phone to San Felice so she could reach out to her family.
San Felice testified that she texted her family that there was an active shooter in the newsroom and that she loved them. She said she was careful to not tell them she was going to be OK.
San Felice also posted the building’s location on his Twitter account with a plea for help.
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. Messenger said he and San Felice were able to identify themselves and leave the office.
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.
San Felice told the Tampa Bay Times in a 2019 interview that when editor Rick Hutzell asked if she wanted to work the day after the shooting, she never considered saying no. “If I didn’t go, the shooter would win,” she said.
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.
San Felice told reporters outside the courthouse that it was a relief to see authorities take Ramos away.
“It felt really good to be able to look the judge in the eye and also to be able to look the shooter in the eye," San Felice said. "It meant a lot to me to be able to tell him to his face that he failed.”
In June 2021, the families of victims and the five journalists who survived filed lawsuits against The Baltimore 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.