HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. –
The man charged Tuesday with seven counts of murder for opening fire at an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago legally purchased five weapons, including two high-powered rifles, despite authorities calling his home twice. in 2019 for threats of violence and suicide, police said. he said.
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart promised Tuesday that dozens more charges would be pursued. He added that the suspect, if convicted of the murder charges, would receive a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
A spokesman for the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force said at a news conference that the suspected shooter, who was arrested Monday night, used an “AR-15-like” rifle to fire more than 70 bullets from the top of a commercial building into a crowd. who had gathered for the parade in Highland Park, a thriving community of about 30,000 on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Police said they were called to the suspect’s home in September 2019 after a family member called to say he was threatening 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 he had any weapons at the time.
The suspect 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.
In April 2019, police also responded to a reported suicide attempt by the suspect, Covelli said.
The Illinois State Police, which issues gun owners’ licenses, said the gunman 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.
The day after the shooting, authorities reported the death of a seventh person. More than three dozen 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 did not determine a motive for the attack or find any indication that he targeted victims based on race, religion or other protected status, Covelli said.
Earlier in the day, FBI agents looked inside trash cans and under picnic blankets as they searched for more evidence at the site where the shooter opened fire. The shots 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 volley of gunfire 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 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 find reasons to celebrate its founding and the ties that still hold it together.
“It definitely hits a lot harder when it’s not only your hometown, but it’s right in front of you,” resident Ron Tuazon said as he and a friend returned to the parade route Monday night to retrieve chairs, blankets and a children’s bicycle that his family abandoned when the shooting began.
“It’s commonplace now,” Tuazon said. “We don’t blink anymore. Until the laws change, it will be more of the same.”
A police officer stopped Robert E. Crimo III 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.
Law enforcement officials said he was 21 or 22 years old. Her father, Bob, a longtime deli owner, ran for mayor in 2019.
After evading initial capture by dressing as a woman and blending in with the fleeing crowd, Crimo drove to the Madison, Wisconsin, area and then back to Illinois, Covelli said.
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 his family in Illinois from Mexico. He was shot and died at the scene, his granddaughter, Xochil Toledo, told the Chicago Sun-Times. Also dead was Jacki Sundheim, a longtime congregation member and “beloved” staff member of nearby North Shore Congregation Israel, which announced her death on her website.
Toledo’s granddaughter told the Sun-Times that Toledo had spent most of her life in Morelos, Mexico. Xochil Toledo said she remembers looking at his grandfather, who was in his 70s, when a gang walked past them.
“I was so happy,” he said. “Happy to live in the moment.”
Xochil Toledo said her father tried to protect her grandfather and was shot in the arm. His boyfriend was also shot in the back and he was taken to a hospital.
Sundheim had spent decades on the staff of North Shore Congregation Israel, teaching in the congregation’s preschool and later coordinating events, “all with tireless dedication,” the congregation said in its statement announcing his death.
“Jacki’s work, kindness and warmth touched us all,” the statement said.
The Lake County coroner released the names of four other victims: Katherine Goldstein, 64, Irina McCarthy, 35, Kevin McCarthy, 37, and Stephen Straus, 88.
Nine people, ages 14 to 70, remained hospitalized Tuesday, hospital officials said.
Since the beginning of the year, the US has seen 15 shootings that have killed four or more people, including the one in Highland Park, according to The Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University Mass Murder Database.
Dozens of smaller-scale shootings in and around Chicago also left eight dead and 60 injured over the Fourth of July weekend.
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.
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.
In an animated video taken down by YouTube, Crimo raps about armies “walking in the dark” as a drawing appears of a man pointing a rifle, a body on the ground, and another figure with hands up in the distance.
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 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 happened.”
Foody reported from Chicago. Groves reported from Sioux Falls, SD Associated Press writers Don Babwin in Chicago, Mike Householder in Highland Park and Mike Balsamo in New York also contributed.