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Author Carl Hiaasen mourns brother killed in Capital Gazette shooting

Best-selling author Carl Hiaasen remembered his "gentle and funny" brother Rob, who was one of five people killed in a shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper.
/ Source: TODAY

Best-selling author Carl Hiaasen is mourning the loss of his "gentle and funny" brother, who was one of five people killed in Thursday's shooting at the office of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland.

A "devastated and heartsick" Hiaasen wrote a touching Facebook post about his brother, Rob, 59, who was an assistant managing editor and columnist at the newspaper for the last eight years.

"We called him Big Rob because he was so tall, but it was his remarkable heart and humor that made him larger than all of us,'' Hiaasen noted. "Please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers tonight. Hug your loved ones like there's no tomorrow."

Police said suspect Jarrod Ramos, 38, opened fire with a shotgun in a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette at its office in Annapolis. Ramos, who sued the newspaper six years ago for defamation and lost, has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder, according to Maryland court documents.

Anthony Messenger, who is four weeks into his job as an intern at the paper, spoke about the harrowing scene in an interview on TODAY Friday.

"I thought I was going to die," he said.

Rob Hiaasen was one of four journalists from the paper who were killed along with a sales assistant. He was remembered by colleagues for his sense of humor, which was often was on display in his writing.

"His column was a delight,'' Capital Gazette contributing columnist Terence Smith told TODAY Friday. "It usually focused on the small foibles of life."

Thursday also happened to be the 58th birthday of Rob's wife, Maria, who was waiting until he got home from work to open the birthday present he had left for her, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

“There was no finer human being, there just wasn’t," Maria told the Sun-Sentinel. "And certainly no finer father, and he was a damn fine journalist, too."

The five shooting victims had a collective 80 years working for the newspaper.

Community news reporter Wendi Winters, 65, was a mother of four who had worked there for 20 years, sportswriter John McNamara, 56, had been there for 24 years, and editorial writer and editor Gerald Fischman, 61, had been a voice at the paper for 25 years. Rebecca Smith, 34, was a sales assistant who was newer to the staff and was "kind and considerate," the paper's advertising director told NBC News.

The remaining journalists at the Capital Gazette remarkably put out an edition of the paper on Friday in the wake of the shooting. They also had their own story on the attack on their website less than two hours after it occurred.

Carl Hiaasen remembered that type of dedication to journalism as a trait his brother embodied during his career.

"Rob was an editor and columnist at the paper, and one of the most gentle and funny people I've ever known,'' Hiaasen wrote. "He spent his whole gifted career as a journalist, and he believed profoundly in the craft and mission of serving the public's right to know the news."

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.