When gunfire broke out at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Maryland Thursday afternoon, the new summer intern initially thought he heard fireworks.
But when 19-year-old Anthony Messenger heard the second round of shots, his instincts kicked in.
“After that I wasn’t positive what was going on, but I was scared enough to grab my keys and I ran toward the back exit of the door,” he said during an appearance on Today.
Another Capital Gazette Reporter, Selene San Felice, also made a dash to the rear exit and jiggled the door’s handle — but it was stuck.
“That door is normally never locked from the inside out, we have no problems getting out of that door. For whatever reason that day, it was jammed,” Messenger said.
“As soon as that happened, that signaled to me that it was intentional. Those are shots. You know, we see these things on the news all the time, so unfortunately we’re kind of desensitized to them.”
With few options left, both of the Capital Gazette team members ducked behind a desk in the back of the office space. Messenger managed to call 911 from the landline, but was not able to speak to anyone out of fear of giving away his location to the shooter. He tried again and got a busy line before texting his friend and begging them to phone the police.
“At that point, I thought I was going to die, we were going to die,” he said.
San Felice had left her cell phone at her desk, so Messenger handed over his so she could text her loved ones. But the reporter also fired off a tweet from Messenger’s account that quickly went viral.
“Active shooter 888 bestgate please help us,” it read.
Both Anthony and San Felice managed to stay out of sight and survived the attack without injuries. As they walked out their newsroom they tried “to keep their eyes off the ground,” where two of their dead colleagues lay.
Jarrod Ramos, a 38-year-old Laurel man, was arrested for the brutal attack on the Annapolis newspaper, which left five dead and several more injured. He harbored a long-standing grudge against the Capital Gazette for a 2011 story that covered a criminal harassment charge against him. A year later, he brought a suit against then-columnist Eric Hartley, and the paper’s former editor and publisher Thomas Marquardt.
In 2015, the suit was dismissed.
The alleged gunman on Thursday was charged with five counts of first degree murder and has a bail review hearing scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in Annapolis.
“It’s unfortunate that somebody would come into a place that only reports truthful stories that are fact-based and unleash hell on the office,” Messenger told Today.
A senior at Salisbury University, Messenger only just begun working with the sports department as an intern four weeks ago. He said there is nothing that could’ve prepared him for the shooting that unfolded in his building Thursday afternoon.
"That’s never something that crossed my mind when I took the internship — that I might see people die, people that were nothing but welcoming and comforting to me,” he said.