ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (AFP) — Flowers, a notebook, a newspaper tied with white ribbon: these are some of the items placed at a makeshift memorial near the newsroom where a gunman shot dead five people in the US city of Annapolis.
The shooting rocked Annapolis — the capital of Maryland — a city of less than 40,000 residents where employees of the small local newspaper are known to many.
“The people who worked here are our friends, our neighbors, our colleagues, so it’s sort of like a part of us has been taken with their death as well,” said Christine Feldmann.
“This paper represented everything great about this country: democracy and community. And to think someone would try to stop that and murder five innocent people is just horrific and makes me feel very hopeless, unfortunately.”
She placed flowers on the memorial in a commercial area dotted with retail stores, restaurants and a lingering police presence following the shooting.
On Thursday, a gunman armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades blasted through the door of the Capital Gazette, then killed four journalists and a sales assistant.
The suspect has been identified as Jarrod Ramos, who had a long-standing grudge against the paper over a 2011 article about a criminal harassment case brought against him by a former high school classmate.
The shooting hit especially close to home for Mike Driscoll, who worked at the Capital Gazette in the administrative department and as a freelancer.
It’s “like I lost family. I don’t think I know anyone still there, but still, I lost family,” Driscoll said.
In the center of the city, a postcard-worthy area of cobblestone streets and red brick buildings, Diann Alaiz said she was “shook,” because “Annapolis is safe to me.”
“I never thought something like that would happen here. We’re just really a tight community and it has pretty much shaken everyone around here,” the souvenir shop owner said.
She said it was “heartbreaking” to see the names of the victims in the newspaper a day after the shooting.
“They were the local hometown paper and still are… there’s nothing that’s changed about that,” said Annapolis resident Tom Wenger.
The shooting has rekindled the long-running debate over gun control in the United States, where the right to bear arms is constitutionally guaranteed.
The shotgun used in the shooting was legally purchased, according to police.
“A firearm, you know, [it’s] in the national DNA, so they’re never gonna go away,” Driscoll said.
“But there needs to be responsibility. They don’t solve any problems, they just create more. And if you can’t handle a gun in an honorable, mature way, you know, you shouldn’t be allowed to have ’em.”
Despite the tragedy, Driscoll said, the newspaper will persevere.
“The paper has been published this morning, we are back. That means the bastards did not win, and they never will,” he added.