Police confirm they used facial recognition technology to ID Annapolis shooting suspect

Police confirm they used facial recognition technology to ID Annapolis shooting suspect

The FBI uses facial recognition technology and allows local law enforcement agencies to access its database of mug shots to identify suspects.

WASHINGTON — Authorities confirmed on Friday that they used facial recognition technology to identify the suspect in the deadly shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., on Thursday as Jerrod Warren Ramos.

Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare told reporters at a news conference on Friday that the technology was used to determine Ramos’ identity after he was taken into custody at the scene. “We are not getting a lot of cooperation from the suspect,” Altomare said, and Ramos was was not carrying any identification.

The police chief thanked the Maryland Image Repository System (MIRS) for assisting in the identification. The database includes more than 7 million driver’s license and other Maryland Vehicle Administration photos, as well as over 3 million mug shots from the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, according to an October 2016 report by Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology. Law enforcement agencies also can request to search the FBI’s mug shot database, which was 24.9 million, the center says.

The center describes its report, “The Perpetual Line-Up,” as “the most comprehensive survey to date of law enforcement face recognition and the risks that it poses to privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights.” Many people have voiced privacy concerns over facial recognition and facial detection technology. But advocates of such technology say its benefits to law enforcement agencies and the public at large outweigh any privacy concerns.

Ramos, of Laurel, Md., pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge in 2011 for harassing a high school acquaintance on social media. Since he presumably would have been fingerprinted when he was arrested at that time, it is not clear why police could not identify him Thursday using that method. There were unsubstantiated media reports Thursday that his fingerprints had been altered in some way but at several news conferences the Anne Arundel County Police chief, deputy chief and spokesperson all have declined to discuss Ramos’ fingerprints.

TMN first reported Thursday Ramos’ long-running dispute with the Capital Gazette when the daily paper ran a column about his harassment case.

He has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder and was denied bail on Friday morning.

Five Capital Gazette employees were killed Thursday in the shooting rampage: editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, 61; editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, 59; sports writer John McNamara, 56; sales assistant Rebecca Smith, 34; and Wendi Winters, 65, a columnist and special-publications editor. The paper eulogized the slain employees in its latest edition, published against all odds on Friday.

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