The Rev. John Crestwell , right, speaks during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Guardians of the First Amendment Memorial, Wednesday, June 28, 2023 in Annapolis, Md., on the fifth anniversary of the shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom that killed five people in 2018. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A wreath-laying ceremony marking the fifth anniversary of an attack that killed five people at the Capital Gazette newspaper was held Wednesday as their grieving families and friends found solidarity with victims of yet another mass shooting in Maryland’s capital.
Current and former Gazette staffers joined relatives in placing the wreaths at the five pillars of the Guardians of First Amendment Memorial in downtown Annapolis to honor Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters.
The Gazette community found itself consoling other victims — the families of three people who were killed and three others who were injured earlier this month during a dispute that apparently began over parking.
“My heart aches for those that we see … families of the other mass shooting in Annapolis, but I’m here to tell you that strength, love, patience and time do make things better, and it is a journey,” said Maria Hiaasen, the widow of Rob Hiaasen.
Gov. Wes Moore, first lady Dawn Moore and Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller placed one of the wreaths at the monument, which is near the city’s waterfront and historic Maryland State House.
“This tragedy reminds us of how much work we still have to do to build safer communities and end gun violence,” the governor said in a statement released after the ceremony. “We must do everything we can to protect the sanctity of our neighborhoods, protect the future of our children, and protect the safety of our journalists – whether they cover stories at home or abroad.”
Moore, a Democrat in his first year in office, signed legislation in May in response to last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ended a requirement, similar to a Maryland law, for people to demonstrate a particular need to get a license to carry a concealed gun in public.
While the new Maryland law removes the “good and substantial reason” language that the court found unconstitutional, it also tightened gun laws to prevent someone from carrying a concealed handgun in certain areas. The NRA filed a court challenge the day Moore signed the legislation.
Wednesday’s ceremony was held 17 days after a shooting outside a nearby home that killed three, including a father and son, and injured three others. Authorities say the dispute over parking during a neighborhood party led to the shooting that killed Christian Segovia, Nicholas Mireles and his 27-year-old son, Mario Alfredo Mireles. Charles Robert Smith has been charged in the slayings.
“I brought the ashes of my son into my house, but everyday I still wait for him to come back,” Christian Segovia, Sr., Segovia’s father, said during the ceremony at the monument. “Every day I still wait for him — that this is a nightmare and this is not true — and that hurts.”
Segovia said his son “left us with a 6-year old, and a baby on the way, and they will be the reason of my happiness again.”
The shooting on a residential street brought back memories of the attack five years ago that rocked this historic capital near the Chesapeake Bay in a state with some of the nation’s strictest gun laws.
A gunman with a well-documented history of harassing the newspaper’s journalists blasted into the Capital Gazette’s newsroom with a shotgun and killed five employees on the ground floor of an office building, where the former newspaper office is now a coffee shop. Jarrod Ramos, the gunman, was captured hiding under a newsroom desk. He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole in 2021.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman attended the ceremony and noted in an interview afterward a variety of local initiatives to help stop gun violence in recent years, including a gun violence intervention team and free gunlocks distributed by libraries. The county had more firearms taken into custody under the state’s red flag law than any other county in Maryland in 2021, he said, and it’s still not enough.
“We know that Congress has to do more,” Pittman said. “The assault weapons ban worked for 10 years, and we need it back.”
By The Associated Press