HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. –
The man accused of killing seven people when he fired a hail of bullets at an Independence Day parade from a rooftop in suburban Chicago legally purchased the high-powered rifle used in the shooting and four other weapons, despite threats of violence, police said.
Robert E. Crimo III was charged with seven counts of murder Tuesday in the shooting that sent hundreds of protesters, parents and children fleeing in terror and sparked an hour-long manhunt in and around Highland Park, a thriving lakefront community. Michigan. Investigators have yet to identify a motive.
Prosecutors have vowed to pursue dozens more charges and Crimo is expected to make his first court appearance on Wednesday. His attorney said he intends to plead not guilty to all charges.
A rifle “similar to an AR-15” was used to fire more than 70 rounds from the top of a commercial building into the parade crowd, a Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman said.
A seventh victim died of his injuries on Tuesday. More than three dozen people were injured in the attack, which task force spokesman Christopher Covelli said the suspect had been planning for several weeks.
The assault occurred less than three years after police went to Crimo’s home following a call from a family member who said he was threatening to “kill everyone” there. Covelli said police seized 16 knives, a dagger and a sword, but said there was no sign he had any weapons at the time, in September 2019.
In April 2019, police also responded to a reported suicide attempt by the suspect, Covelli said.
Crimo legally purchased the rifle used in the attack in Illinois last year, Covelli said. In all, 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 who were able to obtain weapons and carry out massacres in recent months despite glaring warning signs about their mental health and proclivity for violence.
The Illinois State Police, which issues gun owners’ licenses, said Crimo applied for a license in December 2019, when he was 19 years old. His father sponsored his application.
At the time “there was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger” and deny the request, state police said in a statement.
Investigators who questioned the suspect and reviewed his social media posts did not determine a motive or find any indication that he targeted victims based on race, religion or other protected status, Covelli said.
At the Fourth of July parade, the gunshots were initially mistaken for fireworks before hundreds of revelers fled in terror. A day later, baby strollers, lawn chairs and other items left behind by panicked parade-goers remained within a wide police perimeter. Outside the police tape, some neighbors came to collect blankets and chairs that had been abandoned.
David Shapiro, 47, said the gunshots quickly turned the parade into “chaos.”
“People didn’t immediately know where the shots were coming from, if the gunman was in front of you or behind you chasing you,” he said Tuesday as he retrieved a stroller and lawn chairs.
The shooting occurred at a location on the parade route where many residents had staked out vantage points earlier in the day.
Among them was Nicolás Toledo, who was visiting family in Illinois from Mexico, and Jacki Sundheim, a lifelong congregation member and staff member of the nearby North Shore Israel Congregation. The Lake County coroner released the names of four other victims.
Nine people, ages 14 to 70, remained hospitalized Tuesday, hospital officials said.
The shooting was just the latest to break the rituals of American life. Schools, churches, grocery stores, and now community parades have become killing fields in recent months. This time, the bloodshed came as the nation tried to celebrate its founding and the ties that still hold it together.
The gunman initially evaded capture by dressing as a woman and blending in with the fleeing crowd, Covelli said.
A police officer stopped Crimo, 21, north of the scene of the shooting several hours after police released his photo and warned he was likely armed and dangerous, Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said. .
When asked about his client’s emotional state, prominent Chicago attorney Thomas A. Durkin said he had only spoken with Crimo once, for 10 minutes on the phone. He declined to comment further.
In 2013, Highland Park officials approved a ban on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. A local doctor and the Illinois State Rifle Association quickly challenged the liberal suburb’s stance. The legal fight ended at the door of the US Supreme Court in 2015 when justices refused to hear the case and allowed the suburb’s restrictions to remain in place.
Under Illinois law, people convicted of felonies, addicted to narcotics, or those deemed capable of harming themselves or others may be denied the purchase of firearms. That last provision could have prevented a suicidal Crimo from obtaining a weapon.
But under the law, to whom that provision applies must be decided by “a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority.”
The state has a so-called red flag law designed to stop dangerous people before they kill, but it requires family members, relatives, roommates or police to ask a judge to order weapons seized.
Crimo, who goes by Bobby, was an aspiring rapper with the stage name Awake the Rapper, posting dozens of videos and songs, some sinister and violent, to social media.
Federal agents were reviewing Crimo’s online profiles, and a preliminary examination of his Internet history indicated that he had investigated mass murders and downloaded multiple photos depicting violent acts, including a beheading, a law enforcement official said.
The official was unable to publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Shapiro, the Highland Park resident who fled the parade with his family, said his 4-year-old son woke up screaming later that night.
“He’s too young to understand what happened,” Shapiro said. “But he knows something bad happened.”
Foody reported from Chicago; Groves of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 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.