U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Reporter injured while hiding from Capital Gazette newsroom gunman

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 28, 2018
Annapolis, Maryland
Case Status
Type of case


Was the journalist targeted?
REUTERS/Leah Millis

Staffers of the Capital Gazette attend a vigil on June 29, 2018, the day after five people were killed at the newspaper’s offices in Annapolis, Maryland. Survivor Rachael Pacella, on the far right in green, was injured when she hid during the shooting.

— REUTERS/Leah Millis
June 28, 2018

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 Rachael Pacella 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.

The shooter entered the offices just after 2:30 p.m., shooting through the glass doors leading into the newsroom. Pacella wrote in a blog post after the incident that she ran to escape through the back door but hit her head against it when she discovered that it had been barricaded, causing a gash between her eyebrows. She then hid between two filing cabinets with a clipboard cutting into her leg, according to The Washington Post.

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.

“After a little bit, I heard some yelling, and it was clear that it was police,” Pacella later testified. “And eventually an officer came into my field of view. It said ‘police’ on the back, and they told us to get out.”

Pacella said she had left her shoes at her desk and had to be carried out by an officer to avoid cutting herself on glass from the shattered front door. The Baltimore Sun reported that she was taken to the hospital where received three stitches and was told she had a concussion.

In her blog, Pacella wrote that during the five hours she was in the hospital, she asked for paper and a pen and started reporting.

“I had no information, so I gathered my own. The name of the doctor treating me, the first name and last initial of the officer in the room. My immediate recollections post-shooting. ‘Dried blood on right arm looked like veins outside of my skin.’ ‘The office smelled like gunpowder,’” Pacella wrote. “I am proud of that first notebook. I am proud of my instinct to write down and record everything that was going on around me.”

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 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.

Pacella told Maryland Matters that she was relieved when the verdict was handed down. “I’m happy because I feel like today brought some closure,” she said.

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. Pacella confirmed to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that the details of the settlement are confidential.

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