When I heard about the shooting incident in Annapolis, Md., where a deranged man killed five people in a newspaper newsroom, my first thought wasn’t that it was a Trump supporter who had taken the president’s declaration of the “media being the enemy of the people” to heart.
I am not a fan of Trump in any way, shape or form, but after nearly three decades of doing this, I knew why the killings had occurred. Somebody was seriously ticked off about something that had been printed in the paper.
And that is what it turned out to be. The guy had a long history of being a weirdo with violent tendencies and somewhere along the line he contacted a woman he had gone to high school with and even though she responded, she didn’t respond in the way he wanted and he started harassing her online. And the guy, who would not have been considered young by most measurements, had not seen the woman since they were in high school together.
The harassment eventually got so bad the woman called the cops on the guy, he ended up in court and whoever was covering crime for the newspaper at the time, around 2011, heard about it and thought it sounded interesting.
It ended up being a major story and the guy was not happy that his lunacy was splashed across the front page for everyone in Annapolis to see. At first, the guy tried legal routes. He sued the paper, saying it had a vendetta against him, but a judge ruled he had not proven anything, that everything the paper printed was either in the public domain (police reports, court records) or the woman he had harassed had spoken of her own free will to reporters.
The guy appealed and the appellate judge told him the same thing. The guy stewed for a few years, occasionally making threats against the newspaper, usually on social media, and the people at the paper were very aware, but after seven years, everybody figured he was just yelling to be heard.
Well, we all know what happened, and it was the kind of thing that usually happens when you try to understand the mind of the insane. He walked into the newspaper, started firing and killed five people who may or may not have anything to do with the story that so incensed him eight years ago. He reportedly did have a list of who he was looking for, but apparently when he started shooting, his victims were just the ones unlucky enough to be there when he walked in.
We’ve all have stories, even at the small town level, of somebody who got upset with us and made us look over our shoulders for at least a little while.
Mine, or at least the one I really remember, was many years ago, but it made me look around parking lots whenever I got in or out of a car.
The guy had been arrested many times in a short period, for drugs and assault accusations, and I dutifully reported on each one, then started following him through the court system.
Eventually, so it seemed, this became too much for him. He called me up and said the usual things. Who did I think I was? Where did I get off reporting a bunch of lies? Did I want to get sued and lose everything I had? He used the word “buddy” a lot, but I got the feeling he didn’t really consider me a friend.
I always try to calm people down. I asked him what was wrong in the stories, and he said all of it. I asked if he had been arrested and had appeared in court, all part of the public record. He said yeah, by a bunch of lying cops who should have been fighting real crime.
Then he got to the point that always puts a reporter on edge. He wanted me to come meet him on his own turf (a business he owned), and we could talk like men. I told him I wouldn’t come there (I had visions of being beaten with a ball bat), but he was welcome to come to the paper and myself and my editor would be glad to sit down with him and listen to his side of the story, though his lawyer had not allowed that in the past.
He called me a coward and said there would be other people around, that we would not be alone. That actually sounded even worse to me.
We could not come to an agreement on where to meet, and he hung up on me. He did his time, and I never heard a mention of him again, at least in this county, though an officer did tell me one time they were raiding a drug house and he drove by very slowly, rubbernecking at what they were doing, then taking off. Maybe he was just curious.
But at least he didn’t show up one day with a gun.