At least seven people were killed and more than 30 others injured when a shooting interrupted a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, police said Monday.
Police named 21-year-old Robert E. Crimo III as a person of interest in the shooting, saying authorities arrested him after a brief chase later that day. (Authorities initially identified Crimo as 22 years old.)
“We do believe Crimo pre-planned this attack for several weeks,” Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Chris Covelli said Tuesday.
Crimo dressed in “women’s clothing” during the attack to conceal his facial tattoos and general appearance so that he could blend into the crowd and make his escape after firing more than 70 shots from the top of a building, Covelli alleged. Crimo accessed the platform by climbing up the building’s fire escape, Covelli said.
Five of the shooting victims died at the parade, and a sixth died at a hospital, WGN-TV reported. On Tuesday afternoon, police announced that a seventh victim had died. The ages of the deceased range from 35 to 88 years old. Twenty-six people were rushed to NorthShore hospital, including several children, and nearly all of them were treated for gunshot wounds. Nineteen of them, ranging from ages 8 to 85, were later released.
Police found one assault-style rifle at the scene and discovered a second rifle in Crimo’s vehicle during the traffic stop; both had been purchased legally. The vehicle belonged to the suspect’s mother, whose home Crimo had fled to after the shooting.
Targets of the shooting appeared to be “completely random,” Covelli said.
Highland Park police responded to Crimo’s residence in April 2019 following a suicide attempt, and again in September 2019 when a family member called police voicing concerns that Crimo had talked about killing people and had a large collection of knives. Police removed 16 knives, a sword and a dagger from the residence, but said Tuesday that there was no probable cause to arrest Crimo, and the family member did not sign a formal complaint.
The town of Highland Park — which is home to about 30,000 people about 25 miles north of Chicago — had asked residents to shelter in place while the shooter was still at large hours after the attack.
People fled the parade route in panic as gunshots rang out at 10:14 a.m. local time, abandoning chairs, coolers and baby strollers. Video on social media showed a band on a float continuing to play as people ran past in fear, clutching their children.
The parade, with its floats and marching bands, was part of a full day of planned Fourth of July events. It’s a long-standing tradition in Highland Park, an affluent town that’s been used as a setting for films like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Risky Business.”
Witnesses told WGN about the confusion that ensued when they heard loud bangs. Some people thought the sound was fireworks.
Highland Park resident Debbie Glickman, who was on a parade float at the time, told The Associated Press, “People started saying: ‘There’s a shooter, there’s a shooter, there’s a shooter.’ So we just ran. We just ran. It’s like mass chaos down there.”
Witness Alexander Sandoval told WGN that he put his son in a dumpster for safety while he went back to find the rest of his family. “When I went back, there was people shot on the ground, there was a little boy that was being carried away, probably 6 to 8 years old.”
“That was the worst part of all of this — being a father, hiding your children, seeing a little boy carried away. I can’t imagine what that family is going through right now,” he said.
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said the Fourth Fest celebration, scheduled to start at noon, was canceled. Other nearby suburbs such as Evanston, Skokie, Deerfield, Glencoe, Winnetka and Morton Grove canceled their Fourth of July events.
“Our community, like so many before us, is devastated. It’s impossible to imagine the pain of this kind of tragedy until it happens in your backyard,” Rotering said Monday, adding it was the “bloodiest day that we have ever experienced in Highland Park.”
Police from Lake County and Illinois State Police also responded to the incident.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) left a Fourth of July event at Hyde Park in Chicago when he heard about the shooting.
“There are no words for the kind of monster who lies in wait and fires into a crowd of families with children celebrating a holiday with their community,” Pritzker wrote in a statement.
“I will stand firm with Illinoisans and Americans: We must — and we will — end this plague of gun violence.”
Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D), an Iraq war veteran, issued renewed calls for the nation to better address gun violence, saying the last time she heard gunshots like those during the July 4 attack was when she was deployed overseas.
“This morning, I got up like most Americans, like the families of the six who were killed, to celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Duckworth said at a press conference Monday. “Those six families no longer have that opportunity. My heart goes out to those families who will never see their loved ones again.”
“I just listened to the sound of that gunfire from one of the videos that was captured,” Duckworth continued. “And let me tell you that the last time I heard a weapon with that capacity firing that rapidly on a Fourth of July was Iraq. It was not the United States of America. We can and we should and we will do better.”