George P. Matysek Jr., Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) — While Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore offered prayers and support for the families and loved ones of five people murdered June 28 at the offices of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, a former longtime sports editor for the newspaper mourned his friends as exceptional journalists who also were good human beings.

A 38-year-old gunman using a shotgun blasted his way into the newsroom in what police said was a targeted attack against the publication.

The alleged murderer, later identified as 38-year-old Jarrod W. Ramos of Laurel, killed Rob Hiaasen, 59, assistant editor and columnist; Wendi Winters, 65, writer and editor; Gerald Fischman, 61, editorial page editor; John McNamara, 56, sports writer; and Rebecca Smith, 34, sales associate.

Two others were injured in the attack.

Ramos, in custody and charged with five counts of first-degree murder, had a long-standing dispute with the newspaper after the Capital Gazette wrote about a criminal harassment case against him. He sued for defamation, with courts ruling in the newspaper’s favor.

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said he was “shocked and saddened by the terrible shootings at the Capital Gazette.”

“We pray for the eternal rest of those who died,” he said. “We also pray for their families, friends and colleagues in journalism who mourn their loss.”

Gerry Jackson, sports editor for the Capital Gazette for more than 20 years who now works for the Baltimore Sun, said he is deeply pained by the deaths of his colleagues. He was a friend of four of the victims and considered McNamara in particular to be as close as a brother.

McNamara, an author of two books about basketball at the University of Maryland, worked on the news desk of the Capital Gazette before leaving to work for the Prince George’s Journal, also in Maryland. Jackson hired him back to cover sports.

“We were a small staff,” Jackson said, “and we needed to work with good people who can get along with people really well. John grew up in a big, Catholic family like I did. We talked about how that taught you to get along with co-workers because you learn the give-and-take of putting up with different personalities.”

Jackson noted that McNamara was the eldest of seven and a graduate of St. John’s College High School in Washington. One of McNamara’s uncles was a Catholic priest, Jackson said.

Jackson did not know McNamara’s current parish in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, but noted that he and his wife were active in its pre-Cana program. Whenever difficult situations arose, Jackson said, everyone turned to McNamara for support.

“He was the rock of his family,” Jackson told the Catholic Review, the archdiocesan news outlet.

Jackson also spoke fondly of three other friends lost in the rampage.