Vigils were held Friday across Annapolis, Md., where five staff members of the community’s Capital Gazette newspaper were killed during a bloody rampage a day earlier.
A mourning community of family, friends, co-workers and residents attended services to honor the five victims: Rob Hiaasen, 59, assistant managing editor; Wendi Winters, 65, a community news reporter; John McNamara, 56, reporter; Gerald Fischman, 61, editorial page editor; and Rebecca Smith, 34, sales assistant.
“These people were husbands, wives, mothers and fathers,” Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch told the Baltimore Sun. “They didn’t come from someplace else. They were dedicated to our community. They did not deserve to die under these circumstances.”
An interdenominational service outside the newspaper's brick office building saw a crowd numbering in the hundreds stand on a grassy knoll and, while holding unlighted white candles, sing “Amazing Grace,” the Sun reported.
“These people were husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. They didn’t come from someplace else. They were dedicated to our community. They did not deserve to die under these circumstances.”
Thousands spilled through the usually bustling Maryland capital’s streets for a somber candlelit march, some holding #AnnapolisStrong signs.
"For it to be so still and so somber, especially on a Friday night, it's startling," Kit O'Neill said, describing Annapolis as "a small town with a big heart."
The five Gazette staffers were killed when a suspect identified by authorities as Jarrod W. Ramos, 38, of Laurel, Md., entered the paper’s newsroom Thursday with a shotgun and hunted his victims.
Authorities said Ramos had written a series of escalating online threats to the paper and staff after an article on his criminal harassment conviction was published in 2011.
During a service Friday evening, a forlorn bell chime punctuated each of the five victims’ names as they were read aloud, the Sun reported. A candle bearing the names and pictures of each staffer rested on a table, a bouquet of white carnations lay beneath it.
“This is a community newspaper that prides itself on telling stories of the people of this community and lifting them up. We must have free speech. We must have journalists and journalism.”
Speakers also paid tribute to the journalists’ contributions at the paper and their service to the community.
“This is a community newspaper that prides itself on telling stories of the people of this community and lifting them up,” the Rev. Ryan P. Sirmons told the Sun. “We must have free speech. We must have journalists and journalism.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.