Jarrod Ramos, suspected of killing five people at the offices of the Capital Gazette newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland on June 28, 2018 is seen in this 2013 Anne Arundel Police Department booking photo obtained from social media.
June 29, 2018 6:31 PM EDT

The former editor and publisher of the Capital Gazette said he asked police to investigate alleged gunman Jarrod W. Ramos – but was told there was not enough evidence to prosecute him for threats he made against the newspaper and its staff.

Thomas Marquardt, who retired in 2012, told CNN Friday that he went so far as to distribute photos of Ramos to his staff and to the front desk with instructions to call police if they saw him.

“Could we have done more? Perhaps. We could have taken out a restraining order, but we felt again that would only antagonize things and make it worse,” he said. “Quite frankly, and looking back now, I think had we taken that course, and become more aggressive, I think it would have just provoked him to have taken action earlier than what he did.”

Ramos, 38, is accused of killing four journalists and a sales assistant when he opened fire at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland Thursday afternoon.

The shooting came six years after Ramos filed a defamation suit against the newspaper for a 2011 story about harassment charges against him. The suit was thrown out, but according to the Baltimore Sun, the case was still working its way through the courts until 2015 – when an appeals court rejected a final attempt to press the case.

Police have not said why Ramos allegedly attacked the newspaper, and said he is not being cooperative with attempts interview him about the shooting. He has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder.

Marquardt said he and other members of the staff received “veiled threats” from Ramos after the lawsuit.

“He never said ‘I will kill you’ but ‘I wish you were dead,’ ‘I wish you would stop breathing’ and then post a photo of my former boss who had just died,” he said. “So it didn’t take much to read into it that it was a threat. It was a threat against me, a threat against my reporters and staff.”

Marquardt said the newspaper’s attorney advised him not to write about the lawsuit and to keep the matter quiet to avoid provoking Ramos.

“We were taking the posture that the less said the better, because we felt that if we had made as much of an issue as we could, then that would inflame Mr. Ramos and he would retaliate against us at the time,” he said.

Marquardt said he was “appalled” when police told him they spoke to Ramos about the threats, but that they could not arrest him.

“They felt, however, in their professional opinion that the evidence wasn’t there so we had to follow whatever their advice was at that point,” he said.

Write to Gina Martinez at gina.martinez@time.com.

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