The man alleged to have fatally shot seven people and wounded more than 30 others at an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago managed to legally obtain five guns – including the murder weapon – after a suicide attempt and a threat to “kill everyone” in 2019, authorities revealed Tuesday.
The new details came as authorities charged Robert Crimo III, 21, with seven counts of first-degree murder over the deadly massacre. Announcing the charges in an evening press conference on Tuesday, the Lake County state’s attorney, Eric Reinhard, said that the community of Highland Park would “never be the same” and promised the charges were just “the first of many”.
Police have said they first encountered Crimowhen he tried to take his own life in April 2019, prompting a call to officers, investigators said at a press conference, without elaborating much on that case, which was treated as a mental health emergency.
Then, in September of that year, a relative of Crimo called police and reported that in his family home he had threatened “to kill everyone”, said Chris Covelli, the leader of a police taskforce investigating major crimes in Lake county, which includes Highland Park.
That report prompted police to remove 16 knives, a dagger and a sword from his home.
Even though Highland Park’s municipal government banned assault-style guns within city limits in 2013, Covelli said Crimo managed to legally obtain two rifles – including one styled after an AR-15 – and at least three other guns in the general Chicago area, many parts of which do not enforce such restrictions.
He had apparently planned the attack for weeks and allegedly posted dozens of videos with ominous songs showing images of himself or cartoon figures holding rifles with threatening messages, including one reading: “Everything has led up to this. Nothing can stop me, even myself.”
About 10.15am Monday, when Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade was about three-quarters through, he aimed the AR-15-like rifle at strangers, fired more than 70 times, and struck roughly 45 people, Covelli said.
Crimo – who opened fire sniper-style after using a ladder to climb atop a building near the parade route – allegedly disguised himself in “women’s clothing” and fled the scene by blending in among the panicked crowd. Police pulled him over about five miles north of the shooting scene Monday after obtaining surveillance video footage of him and his car, Covelli said.
He surrendered and was arrested. Crimo was still in custody late Tuesday afternoon.
Attempts to contact Crimo’s father, once a Highland Park mayoral candidate, were unsuccessful Tuesday. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had an attorney representing him.
The Lake county coroner, Jennifer Banek, identified six of the seven slain at the parade – they were between the ages of 35 and 88.
Five of those six were from Highland Park: Irina McCarthy, 35; Kevin McCarthy, 37; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63; Katherine Goldstein, 64; and Stephen Straus, 88. Nicholas Toledo Zaragoza, 78, was from Mexico’s state of Morelos.
A seventh person wounded at the parade died on Tuesday after being taken outside a hospital in Lake County, officials said, and that person’s identity wasn’t immediately released.
The shooting comes barely a week after Joe Biden signed into law a bipartisan gun bill intended to prevent dangerous people from accessing firearms.
The fact that Crimo legally purchased so many weapons despite seemingly glaring warning signs that he could be a danger to others has reignited the nationwide debate about whether the US is doing everything it can to rein in access to high-capacity guns.
Authorities have said that, as of Tuesday, they had not found any evidence that Crimo targeted any of the slain or wounded because of their race, religion or other federally protected statuses. Therefore, Covelli said, officials were not currently treating the attack as a possible hate crime.
Highland Park is a tight-knit, generally affluent bedroom community of about 30,000 people.
Not only was it once home to Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan, it is also where movie director John Hughes filmed his 1980s classics Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles and Weird Science.