Shooter had tried to sue newspaper before spree
THE gunman who went on a shooting rampage in a Maryland newsroom, killing five people and leaving others seriously injured overnight, has been identified.
Law enforcement sources have named the killer as Jarrod Ramos, who has previously sued the newspaper for defamation, according to local media sources.
The shooting in the US city of Annapolis has also been described by police as a "targeted attack" that came after the organisation received threats over social media.
A Twitter account matching Ramos name with a location of Laurel, Maryland, includes years of tweets railing against Capital Gazette and includes details of a years-long legal dispute with the company.
"This was a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette," Bill Krampf, acting police chief of Anne Arundel county, told reporters during a briefing.
He said that police did not yet know the gunman's motive but "we know that there were threats sent to the Gazette through social media".
"We're trying to confirm what account that was and we're trying to confirm who actually sent them," Mr Krampf said.
Mr Krampf said that the threats did not appear to target an individual but rather the media outlet as a whole, adding "they indicated violence".
He added that Mr Ramos had used canisters of smoke grenades while entering the office building and "was prepared today to come in".
According to the Gazette, Ramos made a defamation claim in Prince George's County Circuit Court in 2012 after a 2011 column by then-Capital staff writer Eric Hartley about Ramos' guilty plea to criminal harassment.
However, the claim was dismissed in 2013, with the judge saying the article was based on public records and Ramos presented no evidence it was inaccurate.
"A lawyer would almost certainly have told him not to proceed with this case," the court wrote in the opinion. "It reveals a fundamental failure to understand what defamation law is and, more particularly, what defamation law is not."
According to the Los Angeles Times, the mass-shooting suspect had harassed and threatened newspaper's journalists for years.
"He waged a one-person attack on anything he could muster in court against the Capital," Tom Marquardt, the newspaper's editor and publisher until 2012, told the Times. "I said during that time, 'This guy is crazy enough to come in and blow us all away.'
"The theory back then was, 'Let's not infuriate him more than I have to.… The more you agitate this guy, the worse it's gonna get.'"
Police were called to the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, one hour south of Baltimore, Maryland, on Thursday afternoon at 3.15pm local time (5.15am Friday, AEST).
Authorities arrived at the scene just one minute after they received the call to say Mr Ramos had opened fire.
The lone gunman fired a spray of bullets through a glass door, forcing reporters to hide under their desks as they heard him reload his weapon.
A law enforcement official said Mr Ramos mutilated his fingers in what investigators thought was an effort to prevent him from being easily identified.
Phil Davis, a reporter who covers courts and crime for the paper, tweeted that the gunman shot out the glass door to the office and fired into the newsroom, sending people scrambling for cover under desks.
"A single shooter shot multiple people at my office, some of whom are dead," he wrote.
"There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you're under your desk and then hear the gunman reload."
A police official who spoke on condition of anonymity said investigators identified the man using facial recognition technology.
The shooting - which came amid months of verbal and online attacks on the "fake news media" from politicians and others from President Donald Trump down - prompted New York City police to immediately tighten security at news organisations in the nation's media capital.
At the White House, spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said: "There is no room for violence, and we stick by that. Violence is never tolerated in any form, no matter whom it is against."
The gunman was not carrying any identification, authorities said. "The shooter has not been very forthcoming, so we don't have any information yet on motive," Anne Arundel County executive Steve Schuh said.
"To my knowledge, there was no verbal aspect to the incident where he declared his motives or anything else, so at this point we just don't know."
Mr Krampf confirmed five deaths and said two people had superficial wounds. Authorities had said earlier that several people were gravely wounded.
Police spokesman Lieutenant Ryan Frashure said officers raced to the scene, arriving in 60 seconds, and took the gunman into custody without an exchange of gunfire.
About 170 people in all were evacuated from the building as a multitude of police cars and other emergency vehicles converged on the scene. People could be seen leaving the building with their hands up.
The newspaper is part of Capital Gazette Communications, which also publishes the Maryland Gazette and CapitalGazette.com.
- with wires