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.
Anthony Messenger was four weeks into his internship as a sports reporter for the Capital Gazette when a man armed with a shotgun entered the newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, on June 28, 2018, and shot multiple newspaper employees.
Messenger, who did not respond to requests for comment in early 2023, told TODAY the day after the shooting that when he heard the first pop just after 2:30 p.m. 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.”
When he heard a second pop, he said he grabbed his keys and ran toward the back exit of the office alongside reporter Selene San Felice. The door had been barricaded from the outside.
“I quickly recognized, oh, this is a malicious situation, he’s here to do harm to us,” Messenger said. “And we immediately ran and got under one of the desks in the far back corner of the office and we just huddled as close as we could to each other and tried to stay out of sight.”
Messenger told TODAY that he called 911 as soon as they got under the desk and texted a friend asking him to call as well.
“In that moment, I thought I was going to die, I thought we were going to die,” Messenger said. “The only solace in that moment was, ‘Here, Selene, you can have my phone: Text whoever you need to text, contact whoever you need to contact.’”
After reaching out to her family, San Felice tweeted the building’s location on Messenger’s 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.
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.
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.