HIGHLAND PARK, Ill –
A man charged Tuesday with seven murders after firing more than 70 bullets at an Independence Day parade in a Chicago suburb legally purchased five weapons, including the high-powered rifle used in the shooting, despite the fact that the authorities were called to his home twice in 2019 for threats of violence and suicide, police said.
Lake County State attorney Eric Rinehart said the defendant, if convicted of first degree murder, would face a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. He promised dozens more charges would be filed.
A spokesman for the Lake County Major Crime Task Force said the suspected gunman, who was arrested late Monday, used a rifle “similar to an AR-15” to shoot more than 70 rounds from a commercial building into a mob that had turned. gathered for the parade in Highland Park, an affluent community of approximately 30,000 people on the shore of Lake Michigan.
The attack took place less than three years after police went to the suspect’s home following a call from a relative who said he threatened to “kill everyone” there. Task force spokesman Christopher Covelli said police seized 16 knives, a dagger and a sword, but said there was no sign that he had any weapons at the time, in September 2019.
Police also responded to a reported suicide attempt by the suspect in April 2019, Covelli said.
The suspect legally purchased the rifle used in the Illinois attack over the past year, Covelli said. In total, police said, he bought five firearms, which were recovered by officers at his father’s home.
The revelation about his gun purchases is just the latest example of young men being able to acquire guns and commit massacres in recent months, despite clear warning signs about their mental health and propensity for violence.
The Illinois state police, which issues licenses to gun owners, said the gunman applied for a license in December 2019, when he was 19. His father sponsored his application.
At the time, “there was insufficient basis to establish an apparent and present danger” and to reject the application, the state police said in a statement.
In other developments, authorities reported the death of a seventh person. More than three dozen other people were injured in the attack, which Covelli said the suspect had been planning for several weeks.
Investigators who questioned the suspect and reviewed his social media posts have not identified a motive or found any indication that he had targeted victims based on race, religion or other protected status, Covelli said.
Earlier in the day, FBI agents peeked into trash cans and under picnic blankets as they searched the scene for more evidence. The shots were initially mistaken for fireworks before hundreds of revelers fled in panic.
A day later, prams, lawn chairs and other items left behind by panicked parade-goers remained within a wide police perimeter. Outside the police tape, some residents drove up to collect blankets and chairs they had left behind.
David Shapiro, 47, said the gunfire quickly turned the parade into “chaos”.
“People didn’t immediately know where the gunfire was coming from, whether the gunman was in front of you or behind you,” he said Tuesday as he retrieved a stroller and lawn chairs.
The gunman initially evaded arrest by dressing as a woman and blending in with the fleeing crowd, Covelli said.
The shooting was the last time the rituals of American life were broken. Schools, churches, grocery stores and now community parades have all become killing zones in recent months. This time, the bloodshed came as the nation tried to celebrate its founding and the bonds that still hold it together.
A police officer held 21-year-old Robert E. Crimo III north of the shooting scene just hours after police released his photo, warning that he was likely armed and dangerous, Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said.
His father, Bob, a longtime deli owner, ran for mayor in 2019. The candidate who won that race, current Highland Park mayor Nancy Rotering, said she knew Crimo as a kid in Cub Scouts.
“And it’s one of those things where you step back and you say, ‘What happened?’ Rotering told NBC’s “Today” show. “How did someone get so angry, so hateful, and then take it off? to innocent people who were literally just having a family day out?”
Crimo’s attorney, Thomas A. Durkin, a prominent Chicago attorney, said he plans to plead not guilty to all charges.
When asked about his client’s emotional state, Durkin said he spoke to Crimo only once — over 10 minutes on the phone. He declined to comment further.
Steve Greenberg, the parents’ attorney, told the Associated Press Tuesday evening that the parents are not concerned about anything related to their son’s case.
“There is zero chance that they will be charged with anything criminal,” he said. “They haven’t done anything wrong. They are just as stunned and shocked as anyone.”
The shooting occurred at a spot on the parade route where many residents had set out prime vantage points early in the day.
Among them were Nicolas Toledo, who visited his family in Illinois from Mexico, and Jacki Sundheim, a lifelong congregation member and staff member of the nearby North Shore Congregation Israel. The Lake County coroner has released the names of four other victims.
Nine people, ranging from 14 to 70, remained in the hospital on Tuesday, hospital officials said.
Since the beginning of the year, the US has seen 15 shootings that killed four or more people, including those in Highland Park, according to The Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University mass murder database.
Dozens of minor shootings in nearby Chicago also left eight people dead and 60 injured over the weekend of July 4.
In 2013, Highland Park officials approved a ban on semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines. A local doctor and the Illinois State Rifle Association were quick to contest the liberal suburb’s stance. The legal battle ended on the doorstep of the US Supreme Court in 2015 when judges refused to hear the case and let the suburban restrictions remain in place.
Under Illinois law, gun purchases may be denied to people convicted of felonies, drug addicts, or those labeled “mentally deranged” who are capable of harming themselves or others. That might have stopped a suicidal Crimo from getting his hands on a gun.
But under the law, a decision must be made by “a court, council, commission or other judicial authority.”
The state has a so-called red flag law designed to stop dangerous people before they kill, but it requires relatives, relatives, roommates or police to ask a judge to order the seizure of weapons.
Crimo, who goes by the name Bobby, was an aspiring rapper with the stage name Awake the Rapper, who posted dozens of videos and songs on social media, some of them ominous and violent.
In an animated video that has since been removed from YouTube, Crimo raps about armies “walking in darkness,” while a drawing appears of a man aiming a gun, a body on the ground and another figure with hands in the distance.
Federal agents viewed Crimo’s online profiles, and a preliminary search of his Internet history revealed that he had investigated mass murders and downloaded multiple photos of violent acts, including a beheading, a law enforcement officer said.
The official was unable to publicly discuss the details of the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
US Vice President Kamala Harris visited the shooting site on Tuesday evening and expressed his condolences to first responders and local officials. The vice president was already in Chicago to address the annual meeting of the National Education Association.
“The whole nation should understand and have a level of empathy, to understand that this can happen anywhere, in any peace-loving community,” Harris told reporters in Highland Park in brief comments. “And we have to stand together and speak out why it has to stop.”
Shapiro, the Highland Park resident who fled the parade with his family, said his 2-year-old son woke up screaming later that night.
“He’s too young to understand what happened,” Shapiro said. “But he knows something bad has happened.”
Foody reported from Chicago. Groves reported from Sioux Falls, SD Associated Press writers Don Babwin in Chicago, Mike Householder in Highland Park, Bernard Condon and Mike Balsamo in New York, Aamer Madhani in Washington, Jim Mustian in New Orleans, Barbara Ortutay in San Francisco, and researcher Rhonda Shafner also contributed.