A sports intern with the Capital Gazette said he’s still trying to process the “sickening” carnage he witnessed after a gunman opened fire on his newsroom just four weeks after he started his job.
“It’s not something that anybody can prepare themselves for, and even today, it still feels surreal that we all went through that senseless act of violence. It was insane,” college senior Anthony Messenger said Friday on TODAY in an exclusive interview.
Messenger was among those inside the Annapolis, Maryland, newsroom targeted Thursday by a gunman who killed five people.
Authorities have charged Jarrod W. Ramos, who had a longstanding grudge against the newspaper, with five counts of first-degree murder. Court records show Ramos unsuccessfully sued the paper for defamation in 2012.
Messenger said he initially heard a pop that sounded like fireworks on Thursday afternoon. He looked over his shoulder and saw concerned colleagues and the glass doors that opened into the newsroom blown out.
After a second pop, “I was afraid enough to grab my keys.” He and a colleague ran toward the newsroom's back exit but the door, which is normally open, was jammed.
“That signaled to me, okay, this is intentional, those are shots,” he said.
“I quickly recognized oh, this is a malicious situation, he’s here to do harm to us. And we immediately ran and got under one of the desks in the far back corner of the office.”
Messengers said he and others tried to call 911 from their hiding spots. Messenger also texted a friend and asked him to call police.
“At that moment, I thought I was going to die, I thought we were going to die,” he said. He then gave his cell phone to his colleague so she could message her loved ones.
She texted her mother and then proceeded to send out a tweet from his account that said “please help us,” along with the address of the newsroom office building.
“That’s a testament to her self awareness right in that moment,” he said.
After police apprehended the suspect and began to clear out the newsroom, he passed by the bodies of two colleagues.
“It’s just unfortunate that somebody would come into a place that only reports truthful stories that are fact-based and unleash hell on the office,” he said, later adding, “it was sickening.”
Less than a day later, Messenger said he was “still trying to decompress” and unsure of whether he could return to the Capital Gazette newsroom.
“That’s never something that crossed my mind when I took the internship, that I might see people die — people that were welcoming and comforting to me,” he said.
The internship is his first office job and he enjoyed working with colleagues who only showed him support.
“They really tried to help me write the best stories I could, so it was unfortunate to see such goodhearted people ultimately suffer such untimely, senseless deaths,” he said.