A gunman on a rooftop opened fire Monday at an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago, killing at least six people, injuring at least 30 and causing hundreds of protesters, parents with strollers and children on bicycles to flee. flee in terror, police said.
Authorities said a man identified as a person of interest in the shooting was taken into police custody Monday night after an hour-long manhunt in and around Highland Park, an affluent North Shore community of about 30,000. from Chicago.
The July 4 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 he and his family abandoned when the shooting began.
“It’s commonplace now,” Tuazon said of what he called another American atrocity. “We no longer blink. Until the laws change, it will be more of the same.”
The shooting occurred at a location on the parade route where many residents had staked out vantage points earlier in the day for the annual celebration. Dozens of bullets fired sent hundreds of parade goers, some visibly bloodied, to flee. They left behind a trail of abandoned items that showed daily life suddenly and violently interrupted: a half-eaten bag of potato chips; a box of chocolate chip cookies spilled out on the grass; a child’s Chicago Cubs cap.
“There is no safe place,” said Barbara Harte, 73, of Highland Park, who had stayed away from the parade fearing a mass shooting but then ventured out of her home.
Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said a police officer stopped Robert E. Crimo III about five miles north of the scene of the shooting, several hours after police released the photo of the man and a picture of his silver Honda Fit, warning the public that he was probably armed and dangerous. Authorities initially said he was 22, but an FBI bulletin and Crimo’s social media said he was 21.
Police declined to immediately identify Crimo as a suspect, but said identifying him as a person of interest, sharing his name and other information publicly was a serious step.
Lake County Major Crimes Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli told a news conference that “several of the deceased victims” died at the scene and one was taken to a hospital and died there. Police have not released details about the victims or injuries.
Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek said all five people killed in the parade were adults, but she had no information on the sixth victim who was taken to a hospital and died there. One of those killed was a Mexican citizen, Roberto Velasco, Mexico’s director of North American affairs, said on Twitter Monday. He said two other Mexicans were injured.
The NorthShore University Health Center received 26 patients after the attack. All but one had gunshot wounds, said Dr. Brigham Temple, medical director of emergency preparedness. Their ages ranged from 8 to 85, and Temple estimated that four or five patients were children.
Temple said 19 of them have been treated and released. Others were transferred to other hospitals, while two patients, in stable condition, remained at Highland Park Hospital.
“It is devastating that a celebration of America has been shattered by our unique American plague,” Illinois Governor JB Pritzker told a news conference.
“I’m furious it doesn’t have to be this way…While we celebrate the 4th of July only once a year, mass shootings have become a weekly, yes, weekly American tradition.”
The shooter opened fire around 10:15 am, when the parade was three-quarters full, authorities said.
Highland Park Police Commander Chris O’Neill, the scene’s incident commander, said the gunman apparently used a “high-powered rifle” to shoot from a spot high up in a commercial building where it was “very hard to see.” He said the rifle was recovered at the scene. Police also found a ladder attached to the building.
“Very random, very intentional and a very sad day,” Covelli said.
President Joe Biden said Monday that he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked by the senseless gun violence that has once again caused the American community pain this Independence Day.”
Biden signed the most far-reaching gun violence bill passed by Congress in decades, a compromise that showed both progress on a long-intractable issue and the deep-seated partisan divide that persists.
As news of an arrest spread, residents who had sheltered in homes began to venture outside, some walking to where the shooting occurred. Several people stood and looked at the scene, with abandoned picnic blankets, hundreds of lawn chairs and backpacks where they were when the shooting began.
Police believe there was only one shooter but warned that he should still be considered armed and dangerous. Several nearby cities canceled events, including parades and fireworks, with some noting the Highland Park shooter was still at large. The Chicago White Sox also announced on Twitter that a planned fireworks display after the game was canceled due to the shooting.
More than 100 law enforcement officers were called to the parade scene or dispatched to find the suspected shooter.
More than a dozen police officers surrounded a house listed as Crimo’s address in Highland Park on Monday. Some officers held rifles as they stared at the house. Police blocked roads leading to the home in a wooded neighborhood near a golf course, allowing only select police vehicles through a narrow outer perimeter.
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 that was removed from 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. A later frame shows a close-up of a hood with blood pouring out and another of police cars arriving as the shooter raises his hands.
In another video, in which Crimo appears in a classroom wearing a black bicycle helmet, he says that he is “like a sleepwalker… I know what I have to do”, then adds: “Everything has led to this. Nothing can stop me, not even myself.”
Crimo’s father, Bob, a longtime deli owner, ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Highland Park in 2019 and called himself “a person for the people.”
Highland Park is a tight-knit community of about 30,000 people located on the shores of Lake Michigan, just north of Chicago, with mansions and sprawling lakeside estates that have long attracted the rich and sometimes the famous. including NBA legend Michael Jordan, who lived in the city for years when he played for the Chicago Bulls. John Hughes filmed parts of several movies in the city, including “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Sixteen Candles,” and “Weird Science.”
Ominous signs of a joyful event suddenly turning to horror filled both sides of Central Avenue where the shooting occurred. Dozens of baby strollers, some bearing American flags, abandoned children’s bicycles and a helmet adorned with images of Cinderella were left behind. Blankets, lawn chairs, coffee and water bottles were knocked over as people fled.
Gina Troiani and her son were lined up with her kindergarten class ready to walk down the parade route when she heard a loud sound that she thought was fireworks, until she heard people yelling about a shooter. In a video Troiani recorded on her phone, some of the children are visibly startled by the loud noise and pull over to the side of the road as a siren sounds nearby.
“We started running in the opposite direction,” he told The Associated Press.
Her 5-year-old son rode his bicycle decorated with curly red and blue ribbons. He and other children in the group held small American flags. The city said on its website that the festivities would include a parade of pets and children’s bikes.
Troiani said she pushed her son’s bike, running through the neighborhood to get back to her car.
“It was kind of chaotic,” he said. “There were people who were separated from their families, looking for them. Others just dropped their cars, grabbed their children and started running.”
Highland Park resident Debbie Glickman said she was in a parade float with her co-workers and the group was preparing to turn onto the main road when she saw people running from the area.
“People started saying, ‘There’s a shooter, there’s a shooter, there’s a shooter,'” Glickman told the AP. “So we just ran. We just ran. It’s like massive chaos down there.”
He did not hear any noise or see anyone who appeared to be injured.
“I’m so scared,” she said. “It’s so sad”.