Family members of five staff members murdered at the Capital Gazette in 2018, as well as survivors of the mass shooting, have reached a confidential settlement in lawsuits that claimed that the newspaper’s parent companies were negligent and failed to take reasonable steps to protect employees.
Lawyers filed a two-page stipulation of dismissal on Tuesday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court for the claims against The Baltimore Sun Co. LLC and Tribune Publishing Co. LLC. Meanwhile, court documents indicate that family members and survivors have also reached a settlement with the companies that owned and managed 888 Bestgate Drive in Annapolis, Bestgate Corporate Center LLC and St. John Properties Inc., which used to contain the newsroom.
On June 28, 2018, a man with a long-standing grudge against the newspaper shot and killed Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.
The gunman, Jarrod Ramos, pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree murder and related crimes and was later found criminally responsible at trial. He was ordered to serve more than five life sentences without the possibility of parole.
“Nothing can bring back our loved ones,” said Andrea Chamblee, McNamara’s wife. “I would live in a box down by a river if I could live with my husband again because he had a way of making everything OK. This is not about money.”
Chamblee described the settlement as the end of a difficult time. She said she hopes that the money, as well as the increased awareness that the lawsuit brought, will help improve protections for journalists.
“I’m pleased that The Baltimore Sun and The Capital and the hedge fund that owns them have recognized that they have a role to play in protecting their employees,” she said. “This is a big nationwide problem. And I hope that every employer realizes the role they have to play in reducing gun violence.”
James Ulwick, an attorney for The Sun and Tribune Publishing, declined to comment. The companies denied all liability in their response to the lawsuit.
The lead counsel for most of the family members and survivors, Daniel Marino, also declined to comment.
“In regards to the newspaper defendants, I can say that any and all disputes between them and my clients have been settled,” said Steven Silverman, an attorney who represented two family members in the case.
The two lawsuits were filed in 2021 in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court and detailed the history of deadly attacks on journalists in the United States at length. Circuit Judge Mark W. Crooks later ordered the cases to be consolidated.
Baltimore Sun Media Group bought the newspaper in 2014 and moved its offices from 2000 Capital Drive to 888 Bestgate Drive. The parent companies failed to take any reasonable steps to protect employees, the lawsuit alleged, despite the “very specific, menacing and violent threats” that the gunman made toward the newspaper and its employees.
For instance, the parent companies did not provide the same level of security as they did for journalists in Baltimore and Chicago, the lawsuit claimed. They knowingly allowed the office to be “the softest possible target for a simple reason — to save costs,” the complaint asserted.
Gov. Larry Hogan and legislative leaders later signed a resolution declaring June 28 “Freedom of the Press Day” to honor the memory of those killed in the shooting.