Suspect in Highland Park shooting is charged with 7 counts of first-degree murder
Updated July 5, 2022 at 7:04 PM ET
The Highland Park shooting suspect Robert "Bobby" Crimo III has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder.
"These are the first of many charges that will be filed against Mr. Crimo," Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart said at a news conference Tuesday evening.
He added that he expects the charges to run in the dozens, and — if convicted — Crimo would face a mandatory life sentence without parole.
What began as a beloved July 4th tradition ended in tragedy after the 21-year-old Crimo opened fire on a holiday parade in the Chicago suburb, killing seven people and injuring dozens more.
"Lake County will never be the same," Rinehart said.
The victims are identified
By Tuesday, officials had identified six of the seven victims who died:
"We have also been notified that there is a 7th victim that died at a hospital located outside of Lake County," Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek said.
More than three dozen others were injured in the attack, officials said.
Police had two other interactions with the gunman
Prior to Monday's mass shooting, Crimo was involved in two separate incidents.
-- The most recent incident happened in September 2019, when a family member told police that Crimo had a knife collection and "was going to kill everyone," according to authorities. Police responded to the scene and removed the 16 knives from Crimo's home.
-- In April 2019, someone alerted police after learning Crimo attempted to kill himself, according to authorities. Police spoke with both Crimo and his parents, in which they learned mental health professionals were handling the situation.
He allegedly planned the attack for weeks
The suspected gunman had planned the attack for weeks and disguised himself as a woman in an attempt to conceal his identity, officials said Tuesday.
He dressed in women's clothing and possibly a wig, fired more than 70 rounds into the crowd from the roof of a nearby business, said Sgt. Christopher Covelli of the Lake County major crime task force.
Crimo used a "high-powered" rifle, which Covelli described as similar to an AR-15.
Then he reportedly dropped the rifle and escaped with the crowd "almost as if he was an innocent spectator," before walking to his mother's home and borrowing a vehicle.
Based on video surveillance images, a female witness is believed to have seen Crimo drop an object inside a red blanket behind a Ross store shortly after the shooting took place, Covelli said. He later clarified that the object was a rifle.
Authorities are asking this person to come forward.
The suspect purchased the guns legally
Some eight hours after the attack, after authorities had publicly identified Crimo as a person of interest and released a description of his car, a police officer spotted the 2010 silver Honda Fit driving southbound and conducted a traffic stop.
Police discovered a second rifle inside the car, according to Covelli. He added that Crimo is believed to have purchased both firearms legally in separate locations in the Chicagoland region. Investigators also recovered other firearms from his residence in nearby Highwood, though Covelli did not specify how many.
Crimo had purchased five firearms: two rifles, some pistols and possibly a shotgun, according to Covelli, who told reporters, "I believe it was in 2020 and 2021."
The weapons were seized by authorities at the home of Crimo's father on Monday.
Authorities do not yet have a motive
The suspect is believed to have acted alone, and that the shooting appears to be completely random, Covelli said.
Investigators have no information to suggest that it was motivated by race, religion or any other protected status, he added.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that about one-third of Highland Park's roughly 30,000 residents are Jewish.
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering told Morning Edition that Crimo breached local laws by bringing the weapons into the city. That's because in 2013, Highland Park became one of the first localities to pass a ban on weapons like semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines.
But laws differ in cities throughout Illinois and neighboring states like Wisconsin and Indiana, Rotering noted. She is calling for more widespread collaboration between states to prevent similar tragedies from unfolding in more hometowns.
"We know that in so many of these mass shootings that are now becoming weekly events that the guns are being obtained legally," she said. "That should tell all of us that the laws aren't doing their job, if people can't go out to enjoy a 4th of July parade with their grandparents without fear. We don't need to become a nation that is so militarized that we can't enjoy the freedoms that people fought for 246 years ago."
The suspect previously posted violent imagery online
The suspected gunman is an aspiring rapper who goes by the name "Awake the Rapper" and posts music videos on YouTube and other social media platforms.
NPR's Cheryl Corley tells Morning Edition that some of those videos are "ominous and violent," including one that shows a stick figure with an automatic rifle and a person lying in a pool of blood. Another shows a person in a classroom pulling on a tactical helmet and vest and reaching into a backpack.
Those videos have since been taken down, Corley reports.
Rotering, the mayor, told NBC that she knew him when he was a Cub Scout and she was the Cub Scout leader.
His family is known in the community, according to Corley. His father runs a convenience store in the area and ran for mayor of Highland Park in 2019, losing to Rotering by more than a 2-to-1 margin.
He was taken into custody after a police chase
Covelli said investigators were able to quickly track down Crimo's identity with the help of witness statements, videos from business and attendees, and an expedited trace of the firearm he had left behind. A number of police officers recognized Crimo in photos and identified him, he added.
Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said on Monday evening that an officer spotted him driving a silver Honda Fit in North Chicago and pulled him over in a traffic stop. The man tried to flee but the officer called in backup and, after a brief pursuit, apprehended him without incident.
Rotering told Morning Edition that she understands the suspect was able to elude police for so long by "driving all over the place."
"I think they were able to get to him at some point with the unbelievable collaboration of several agencies, municipal police departments, the FBI, the ATF, the Illinois State Police," she added.
Notably, Monday's shooting came in the wake of high-profile mass shootings in New York and Texas, and as outrage continued to build over the police killing of 25-year-old Jayland Walker in Akron, Ohio, last week.
Speaking to Morning Edition about that case on Tuesday, Brookings Institution fellow Rashawn Ray drew a distinction between the way that police apprehended Walker, who is Black, and white criminal suspects like Crimo.
"The important point is that Jayland Walker was unarmed at the time that he was killed, and a lot of people consider that to be overkill, compared to a white man who recently killed police officers, compared to just yesterday on Independence Day, a person who shoots into a crowd of people, kills people and is apprehended peacefully," he said.
The majority of those injured were treated for gunshot wounds
Those who were wounded in Monday's shooting ranged in age from 8 to 85 years old, including four or five children.
Member station WBEZ reports that dozens of people were taken to several area hospitals and that while the vast majority were treated for gunshot wounds, some suffered injuries while escaping the chaotic scene.
Dr. Brigham Temple of Highland Park Hospital said that 25 of the 26 people treated there were gunshot victims and that 19 of them had been treated and released.
Highland Park Fire Chief Joe Schrage has said that crews on the scene responded quickly, and witnesses helped tie tourniquets.
Vigils are being held at houses of worship around the area, and crisis counseling and other support services are available to anyone who was impacted by the shooting, Rotering said on Tuesday.
She spoke of an outpouring of support from within and beyond Highland Park, and said more information about how to help and where to donate will be available on the city's website in the coming days.
Details are emerging about the victims
Among the fatalities was Nicolas Toledo, who came from Mexico several months ago to stay with his family. His granddaughter, Xochil Toledo, told WBEZ that they had been enjoying the parade when bullets started raining toward them.
Three of them struck her grandfather. Another hit her father in the arm as he was trying to shield him. Her boyfriend was shot in the back as he tried to run away.
"He was the one who saved all of our lives," she said of her grandfather. "It would have gone to me, my boyfriend or my cousins."
The family has created a GoFundMe page to raise money for funeral expenses. The fundraiser honors the "father of eight and grandfather to many" as loving, creative, adventurous and funny.
"As a family we are broken, and numb," they wrote. "Our condolences go out to all the other families who lost a [loved] one today."
North Shore Congregation Israel announced in a statement that one of the victims was Jacki Sundheim, whom it described as a lifelong congregant and a longtime member of their staff.
"Jacki's work, kindness and warmth touched us all, from her early days teaching at the Gates of Learning Preschool to guiding innumerable among us through life's moments of joy and sorrow as our Events and B'nei Mitzvah Coordinator — all of this with tireless dedication," the synagogue wrote.
It added that "there are no words sufficient to express the depth of our grief for Jacki's death and sympathy for her family and loved ones."
Witness describe the chaotic scene
Monday's July 4th parade was the suburb's first since before the pandemic. The scene quickly turned to one of fear and panic when the shooter began firing around 10:14 a.m. local time, according to authorities.
It's not clear exactly how many shots were fired, but several witnesses say they heard 20 to 25 shots in rapid succession.
Jessica Antes, one of the emcees of the parade, tells Morning Edition that it took a moment for people to realize what was happening.
"We were like 10, 15 minutes into it, and literally my co-host Ryan and I we looked at each other were like: that's got to be fireworks right? Somebody setting off fireworks,'" she recalls. "And then we saw just people just scattering and screaming."
Miles Zaremski also told NPR that he initially mistook the gunshots for a car backfiring or fireworks. Then came the stampede.
"And then I gingerly went a little bit forward, and all of a sudden I see blood on the cement, he said. "And I see individuals in pools of blood ... and I knew there was a mass shooting."
Alexander Sandoval, who had gone to the parade with his family and their dog, told NPR it was a terrifying day.
"I put my son and little brother and the puppy in the garbage dumpster, and ran back to look for my partner and I saw people on the ground shot," Sandoval recalled. "And all I wanted to do was get my phone, call, make sure we'd get reunited and get out of there."
The holiday saw half a dozen mass shootings
The incident at the Highland Park parade was one of several mass shootings that took place across the country on the 4th of July.
According to a tracker from the Gun Violence Archive, one person was killed and a total of 18 injured in five other mass shootings in Massachusetts, California, Missouri, Virginia and Chicago.
The nonprofit defines mass shootings as incidents in which a minimum of four victims (excluding the shooter) are shot and either injured or killed. By their count, there have already been 314 mass shootings in the U.S. this year.
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