Robert E. Crimo III was taken into custody on Monday evening after an hours-long manhunt around the city north of Chicago.
Police say the shooter fired more than 80 rounds with a high-powered rifle just after 10am CDT on Monday, which struck several in attendance and sent hundreds of parade-goers — some visibly bloodied — running from the parade route, leaving behind chairs, baby strollers and blankets.
The city later confirmed five died at the scene, and one passed away later at hospital. More than three dozen people were wounded.
Just after 5pm CDT, Highland Park police named Mr Crimo as a person of interest in the mass shooting and warned he was armed and dangerous.
He was arrested a few hours later after a short pursuit in Lake Forest, bringing an end to a day of horror for Highland Park.
He was charged with seven counts of first-degree murder on Tuesday night.
What we know about the shooting so far
Sgt. Christopher Covelli, from the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, told a news conference just before 1pm CTD on Tuesday that the shooter appeared to have taken up up a sniper position on the rooftop.
They recovered a high-powered rifle from the scene, later revealed to be a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 rifle, but still considered the suspect to be armed and dangerous.
“This was very random, very intentional and a very sad day,” Mr Covelli said during a later update, adding the suspect could still be in city or could have fled the area.
Officers ran towards the shooter when the gunfire began, but say he was “discreet and difficult to see”.
More than 100 local, state and federal law enforcement officers, including the FBI, were involved in the investigation.
Witnesses told WGN that a suspect began firing from the roof of an Uncle Dan’s retail store into the parade below about 10 minutes after the parade started.
The shooting happened “in the area of the Independence Day parade route,” the Lake County Sheriff's Office said in statement posted shortly after 11 am CDT.
“Everybody disperse, please. It is not safe to be here,” policer told parade-goers.
Eyewitnesses tell of running for their lives
Gina Troiani and her son were lined up with his daycare class ready to walk onto the parade route when she heard a loud sound that she believed were fireworks — until hearing people yell about a shooter.
“We just start running in the opposite direction,” she said.
Her five-year-old son was riding his bike decorated with red and blue curled ribbons. He and other children in the group held small American flags. The city said on it’s website that the festivities were to include a children’s bike and pet parade.
Ms Troiani said she pushed her son’s bike, running through the neighborhood to get back to their car.
In a video that Troiani shot on her phone, some of the kids are visibly startled at the loud noise and then scramble to the side of the road as a siren wails nearby.
“It was just sort of chaos,” she said. “There were people that got separated from their families, looking for them. Others just dropped their wagons, grabbed their kids and started running.”
Debbie Glickman, a Highland Park resident, said she was on a parade float with coworkers and the group was preparing to turn onto the main route when she saw people running from the area.
“People started saying: ‘There’s a shooter, there’s a shooter, there’s a shooter,’” Glickman said.
“So we just ran. We just ran. It’s like mass chaos down there.”
She didn’t hear any noises or see anyone who appeared to be injured.
“I’m so freaked out,” she said. “It’s just so sad.”
Parents hid their children behind dumpsters as they tried to escape from the gunfire.
I spoke to Mayor @NancyRotering of Highland Park. Unimaginable horror at this mass shooting. Details are hard to even repeat. My office is in touch with law enforcement agencies searching for the suspected shooter. At least six dead and 24 wounded at this point. Praying for all.— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) July 4, 2022
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said the shooting has “terrorised” the city of 30,000.
“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims during this devastating time. On a day that we came together to celebrate community and freedom, we’re instead mourning the tragic loss of life and struggling with the terror that was brought upon us,” Ms Rotering said.
She asked everyone in the area to remain calm, and on “high alert”.
“Please contact your loved ones and ensure that they’re safe and let them know that you’re safe as well. This situation, as you know, is evolving rapidly and we will continue to update you as we gain information and stabilise the situation,” Ms Rotering said.
City leaders said on Twitter all Fourth of July parades had been cancelled and asked residents to avoid the downtown area. Beaches in the area have also been closed.
A perimeter was put in place around downtown Highland Park as authorities tried to locate the shooter.
It was the 308th mass shooting so far in the United States in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
What we know about the shooter
Police named Robert E Crimo, 21, who goes by the name Bobby, as a person of interest late on Monday afternoon.
They asked for the public to keep an eye out for his 2010 silver Honda Fit with Illinois license plate DM80653.
Highland Park police chief Lou Jogmen said a police officer pulled over Mr Crimo about five miles north of the shooting scene near Lake Forest, several hours after authorities released his photo and an image of his silver Honda Fit with a warning to the public that he was likely armed and dangerous.
According to NBC 5 Chicago, Mr Crimo’s identity was identified through DNA collected from a high-powered rifle discovered at the scene.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted a rapid trace of the rifle, agency spokesperson April Langwell told the Associated Press on Monday. Federal agents conduct such traces to identify when, where and to whom the gun was last sold.
Highland Park Police had earlier described the suspect as a white male 18-20 years old, with long black hair, small build, and wearing a white or blue t-shirt.
He had allegedly uploaded a number of videos online, many months before the shooting, filled with violent imagery and depictions of mass murder.
He goes by the stage name “Awake the Rapper” and has more than 16,000 listeners per month on his Spotify page.
A recent video purportedly posted by Mr Crimo on YouTube appeared to show the aftermath of a school shooting with him draping himself in an American flag.
In another animated video titled “Toy Soldier”, he appeared to show his own demise.
The video showed a man, seemingly personifying Mr Crimo, wearing a black T-shirt with his YouTube channel’s logo on it and lying in a pool of blood during a confrontation with the police.
The video begins by showing a student texting in class while Mr Crimo raps “f*** this world” with visuals showing a heavily armed shooter opening fire inside a school.
Mr Crimo also appeared to have an obsession with the number 47. The number was tattooed on his face, emblazoned on his car, and frequently mentioned on his social media platforms.
In 2020, he was pictured attending a rally of Donald Trump dressed as the main character from “Where’s Waldo?” In another photo on Twitter, he was seen wrapped in a Trump flag like a cape.
Police on Tuesday said Mr Crimo purchased the weapon legally in the Chicago area.
Mr Covelli revealed the suspect had “planned his attack for several weeks” and dressed in women’s clothes to conceal his identity during the shooting.
He accessed the roof via a fire escape and used a high-powered rifle similar to an AR-15 to shoot more than 70 rounds into the crowd.
After the shooting, he was able to melt into the crowd before walking to his mother’s home, who lived nearby, and taking her car.
“Initially it was reported that this person had long hair, so a wig isn’t out of the question.”
A member of the public identified Mr Crimo’s vehicle from information issued by authorities and called 911, and he was arrested shortly afterwards after police located the car.
The motive for the attack is still unknown, but police said they did not believe it was racially motivated.
Suspect threatened to ‘kill everyone’
Mr Crimo threatened to “kill everyone” in his home with a “collection of knives” three years before he allegedly went on his shooting rampage.
Police said in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that officers were called to his home for incidents twice in 2019.
The second time – in September 2019 – police were called to a report from a family member that Mr Crimo had vowed to “kill” the people inside the home and that he had a “collection of knives”, which included a sword.
Officers responded to the scene and confiscated the knives but did not arrest the suspect.
This came after police were first called to the home in April 2019 to a report that Mr Crimo had tried to kill himself.
Despite the incidents, Mr Crimo was able to legally purchase multiple firearms in the lead-up to Monday’s attack.
First court appearance
Mr Crimo was charged with seven counts of first-degree murder by prosecutors from the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office on Tuesday evening.
He appeared in court for the first time on Wednesday morning where he was ordered to be held without bond on seven counts of first-degree murder.
Dressed in a black t-shirt and his long dark hair down around his face, he stared expressionless into the camera.
The judge ordered that he be held without bond. A public defender has been appointed to defend him.
In a press conference outside the court on Wednesday, Mr Covelli said that the suspect crossed state lines from Illinois to Wisconsin, driving all the way to Madison in his mother’s vehicle.
“Investigators did develop some information that it appears when he drove to Madison, he was driving around, however, he did see a celebration that was occurring in Madison, and he seriously contemplated using the firearm he had in his vehicle to commit another shooting in Madison,” he said.
Who are Robert Crimo’s family?
Mr Crimo’s father has been identified as Bob Crimo Sr, 58, a local deli owner who once ran for mayor of Highland Park in 2019 but lost by a two-to-one margin to the incumbent.
Just days after the Uvalde elementary school shooting in Texas in which 19 children and two teachers were killed, a Twitter account that is thought to belong to Mr Crimo Sr liked a tweet in support of the second amendment.
“Protect the Second Amendment like your life depends on it,” read the 28 May tweet.
A search of his home also uncovered multiple other firearms including pistols.
His mother Denise Pesina was seen angrily confronting a SWAT team in the aftermath of the July 4th mass shooting.
Video obtained by CBS News shows Ms Pesina shouting and gesturing at officers in McDaniels Avenue, Highland Park, on Monday, as a massive manhunt was underway for her son.
It’s unclear what the confrontation was about, but the network reported that Ms Pesina was in contact with police over for several hours after the Independence Day parade shooting.
It has also emerged that a business owned by Ms Pesina had a mailbox at a UPS Store just a few blocks from where Monday’s shooting was carried out.
The murder weapon
The gun used in the Highland Park July 4th parade mass shooting that killed seven and wounded dozens was a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 rifle, authorities have revealed.
After fleeing the rooftop, authorities said the weapon fell out of his bag in an alley.
They found the rifle, three 30-round high-capacity magazines and 83 spent shell casings around the scene.
The M&P 15 gun is described in marketing as an “AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle” which is designed for “police and consumer markets”.
The rifle was as he fled the area, said investigators.
As well as these two high-powered rifles, a search of Mr Crimo’s home also uncovered at least three more firearms including pistols.
Ms Rotering, the Highland Park Mayor, told The Today Show the gun used in the attack was “legally obtained”.
Ms Rotering said she knew Mr Crimo when he was young, and that she had been his cub scout leader.
“How did somebody become this angry, this hateful to then take it out on innocent people?” Ms Rotering said.
Victims were aged from 8 to 85
Five adult victims died on the scene while a sixth victim succumbed to their injuries in hospital. A seventh person died on Tuesday, authorities said.
The seven victims names have been released: Katherine Goldstein, 64, Irena McCarthy, 35, Kevin McCarthy, 37, Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63, Stephen Strauss, 88, Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78, and Eduardo Uvaldo, 69.
Dr Brigham Temple from North Shore University Health System said the hospital treated 26 victims from the Highland Park shooting.
They were between the ages from 8 to 85, including about five children, and were suffering injuries ranging from minor to critical.
He added that 19 of the 26 patients had been treated and discharged as of Monday afternoon.
Another 12 victims were taken to at least two other hospitals in the area.
Eerie parallels to the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy
In November 2021, six people were killed and 62 others were injured when a driver broke through barricades and into the path of a Christmas Parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, about 75 miles north of Highland Park.
As happened in Highland Park, strollers and chairs were left strewn along the main street after the attack.
Darrell Edward Brooks has been charged with six counts of first-degree intentional homicide and dozens of other offenses.
He had been out on bond after being accused of running over a woman a few weeks earlier.
Where is Highland Park?
Situated about 25 miles north of downtown Chicago, Highland Park is an affluent suburban city in Illinois on the southwestern edge of Lake Michigan.
It has a population of around 30,000, according to the 2020 Census.
Several members of the famous Chicago Bulls NBA team of the 1990s lived in the area, including Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Toni Kukoc.
Lawmakers respond to the shooting
President Joe Biden said in a statement he was monitoring the shooting closely.
“Jill and I are shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day.”
Mr Biden, who signed gun control legislation into law last month, said there was “much more work to do”.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois condemned the shooter’s actions on Monday afternoon.
“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,” he said in a statement.
“There are no words for the kind of evil that robs our neighbors of their hopes, their dreams, their futures.”
Senator Dick Durbin, the second ranking Democrat, said in a tweet he had spoken to Ms Rotering, the Highland Park Mayor.
“Unimaginable horror at this mass shooting. Details are hard to even repeat. My office is in touch with law enforcement agencies searching for the suspected shooter.
“At least six dead and 24 wounded at this point. Praying for all.”
Our hearts are with the Highland Park community. pic.twitter.com/QMfJ9xdfoj— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) July 4, 2022
The Chicago White Sox said their game against Minnesota on Monday night would go ahead, but a postgame fireworks display had been cancelled.
“Our hearts are with the Highland Park community,” the team said in a statement.
Associated Press contributed to this report
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