Police chief says quick response ‘without a doubt’ saved many lives at newspaper

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Police officers reportedly arrived on the scene of the shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis within 60 to 90 seconds. on Thursday, Scores of other officers later converged on the scene. Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare said about 300 law enforcement officers from numerous agencies responded to the shooting. (WTOP frame grab)

WASHINGTON — Law enforcement’s lightning-fast response to the shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis on Thursday “without a doubt” probably saved many lives, the Anne Arundel County police chief said Friday.

Chief Timothy Altomare said about 300 law enforcement officers from numerous agencies responded to the shooting.

Altomare listed no fewer than 10 federal, county and local agencies that he said assisted the Anne Arundel County and Annapolis police departments at the scene. They include: the neighboring Howard County Police Department; Anne Arundel County Sheriff’s Office; Maryland State Police; Maryland Transportation Authority Police; Maryland Natural Resources Police’s Fire and Bomb Squad; BWI Airport Fire & Rescue Department; National Security Agency; U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Secret Service, as well as U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

“Every cop from all those agencies was a part of how we saved all those people yesterday,” Altomare said. “I thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”

Police officers from the Anne Arundel County Police Department as well as the Annapolis Police Department were believed to be the first to respond, arriving on the scene 60 to 90 seconds after being dispatched, authorities said. Witnesses described officers running toward the office building while putting on Kevlar vests.

Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare

“When the officers went in, they were going in to neutralize a threat … fight or flight kicks in,” Altomare said.

As some officers entered the Capital Gazette’s first-floor suite, where the gunman had shattered the glass entrance, others went door-to-door telling workers in other offices that an active shooter was in the building and urging them to shelter in place, officials said.

Within two minutes, Altomare said, officers found the suspect cowering under a desk and apprehended him without incident. “No shots were fired,” he said.

Police said they evacuated about 170 people from the building and a family reunification center was set up at a nearby mall.

Authorities then searched the building for explosives and booby-traps, still considering it an active-shooter scene, before giving the all-clear Thursday evening.

“There are no other suspects we are looking for. We have no reason to believe that anyone else was involved in this atrocity,” Altomare said Friday.

Throughout the news conference, he repeatedly referred to suspect Jerrod Ramos as “the bad guy.”

“I will not say his name today. I refuse to do it. I wish you wouldn’t do it, but I know better. He doesn’t deserve us to talk about him one more second.”

Annapolis Mayor Gavin told reporters that police conducted an active-shooter drill in the city just last week. He said that drill, and the cooperation and coordination required by the participating agencies, undoubtedly helped prepare the first responders for Thursday’s tragedy.

At a news conference on Thursday, Deputy Anne Arundel County Police Chief Bill Krampf praised the other law enforcement agencies. “We work very well together.”

The quick response to the shooting is in stark contrast to that at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. on June 12, 2016. Although officers from the Orlando Police Department arrived on the scene within minutes, they were ordered to stand down and remain outside until a SWAT team arrived. Even after the SWAT team came, the standoff continued. The shooter was not killed until almost three hours after he had fired his first shots.

Many politicians, other officials and pundits criticized the police department, saying the officers should have entered the club sooner. But Orlando Police Chief John Mina defended the decision, citing concerns about the officers’ safety.

A 200-page report from the Justice Department and the Police Foundation concluded that the police response to the Pulse shooting followed protocol, but that moving forward more training and better coordination were needed. The police response was “consistent with national best practices and under extremely volatile and difficult circumstances,” the report said. Few officers at the scene were adequately outfitted to confront quickly a mass shooter, the report noted.

Gunman Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded more than 50 others at Pulse before fatally shooting himself. The mass shooting was the deadliest in modern U.S. history.

Five people were killed and two were injured at the Capital Gazette.

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