A gunman in Highland Park, Illinois, killed seven people and injured dozens more on a July Fourth parade route on Monday, setting off a manhunt that paralyzed the Chicago region before a suspect was apprehended by police later in the day.
The wounded ranged from ages 8 to 85. All the deceased victims were adults, Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek said Tuesday. Five of them died at the scene, she said.
The suspect, 21-year-old Robert E. Crimo III, was taken into custody after a tip from “an alert member of the community” helped police track him down in his mother’s vehicle and detained him during a traffic stop. He was unharmed.
Eric Rinehart, Lake County state’s attorney, said Crimo faces seven charges of first-degree murder and that he plans to seek the maximum sentence of life in prison without parole should the suspect be convicted. Dozens of other charges will be added soon, including attempted murder, he said.
Firearm evidence was found on the rooftop of a business near the shooting, Highland Park Police Commander Chris O’Neill said on Monday. The gunman used a ladder attached to the wall of the building from an alley to access the roof, said Christopher Covelli, spokesperson for the Lake County Major Crime Task Force.
The suspect allegedly fired more than 70 rounds during what Covelli on Tuesday initially described as a “completely random” attack – one that law enforcement now believes but one that the suspect spent weeks planning and sought to escape without capture by dressing up as a woman to conceal his identity.
There have been more than 300 mass shootings in less than 200 days, according to data compiled by the non-profit Gun Violence Archive. Shootings included a racist killing spree in Buffalo, New York, that left 10 dead and the massacre of 19 young students and two teachers at a school in Uvalde, Texas.
Here is what we know about the deadly attack in Illinois so far:
The deadly gunfire erupted a little after 10 a.m. local time along a parade route on the town’s Central Avenue.
Police say the suspected shooter mounted the rooftop of a building and used a “high-powered rifle” – described by Covelli as “similar to an AR-15” – to begin his assault, about 20 minutes after the procession began. Some bystanders said they initially thought the sound of the gunshots was from fireworks.
But soon, the crowds began to flee the scene, leaving behind their belongings – a mishmash of chairs, strollers and other Fourth of July-branded American flag signage.
Covelli said Tuesday “there are approximately 45 injured or deceased from this incident.”
Authorities have identified six of the seven people who died, including a married couple whose 2-year-old child was found alive.
They were Katherine Goldstein, 64, of Highland Park; Irina McCarthy, 35, of Highland Park; Kevin McCarthy, 37, of Highland Park; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63, of Highland Park; Stephen Straus, 88, of Highland Park; and Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78, of Morelos, Mexico.
The seventh victim died in Cook County and has not been identified by officials there.
The McCarthys were parents to a young son named Aiden, according to Irina Colon, who was related to Irina McCarthy.
A verified GoFundMe campaign Colon organized says that in the aftermath of the violence, the young child was taken to safety by community members before his grandparents were located.
“At two years old, Aiden is left in the unthinkable position; to grow up without his parents,” the campaign says. “Aiden will be cared for by his loving family and he will have a long road ahead to heal, find stability, and ultimately navigate life as an orphan. He is surrounded by a community of friends and extended family that will embrace him with love, and any means available to ensure he has everything he needs as he grows.”
The campaign has raised more than $1.4 million.
Shooter passed background checks, purchased gun legally
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering has told reporters that the firearm used by the alleged gunman was legally purchased.
“That being said, again, if you can have a weekly mass shooting with a legally purchased gun, then I think we need to talk about why those laws are protecting the very people that they’re supposed to be protecting,” Rotering told CNN.
At a news conference Tuesday, Covelli confirmed that the weapons – including one found inside the suspect’s vehicle during his arrest – had been legally obtained and purchased “locally within the region.”
Crimo passed four background checks between June 2020 and September 2021 when purchasing firearms, Illinois state police said in a statement. Those background checks went through the Firearms Transaction Inquiry Program (FTIP), which includes the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), state police added.
Covelli also said investigators believe that Crimo had planned the attack for “weeks” and accessed a rooftop on the parade route via a fire escape ladder.
According to Covelli, Crimo also dressed in women’s clothes during the attack in an effort to conceal his identity, including notable face tattoos. Following the shooting, he said, Crimo dropped his weapon and attempted to blend in with the crowd as it fled. He then made his way to his mother’s house and took her vehicle. (There is no indication, police said, that Crimo communicated with his mother.)
Crimo’s car was subsequently identified, Covelli said, by “an alert member of the community” who saw it and called police, leading to a traffic stop that ended with the suspect’s arrest.
Covelli also told reporters that investigators do not believe the attack was racially or religiously motivated.
“The shooting appears to be completely random,” he said.
Shooter posted music videos featuring animated gun violence
On Monday, Rotering said she had known Crimo since “he was just a little boy, a quiet little boy,” as she had been his pack leader during his time a Cub Scout.
More recently, Crimo, who fashioned himself as “Awake the Rapper,” posted a series of online music videos he apparently made that featured ominous sounding lyrics and animated scenes of gun violence.
In one clip, Crimo is seen with multicolored hair and face tattoos and is narrating, “I need to just do it. It is my destiny.” The video shows a cartoon animation of a stick-figure shooter – resembling Crimo’s appearance – in tactical gear carrying out an attack with a rifle.
In a video titled “Toy Soldier,” another stick-figure cartoon character resembling Crimo is depicted lying face down on the floor in a pool of his own blood surrounded by police officers with their guns drawn. Another video, from September 24, 2021, showed Crimo III sitting on a set resembling a classroom, wearing a helmet and posing in various scenes while an instrumental arrangement of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” played in the background.
The videos appear to have been posted online last year.
The Facebook and Twitter accounts believed to belong to Crimo were taken down after he was named as a person of interest in the mass shooting.
Crimo lives in an apartment behind his father’s house in Highwood, Illinois, according to his uncle, Paul Crimo, who said he also lives in the house.
“I’m heartbroken. I’m so heartbroken,” Paul Crimo said. “There were no signs that I saw that would make him do this.”
He said has not ever seen his nephew engage in any violence or concerning behavior.
Paul Crimo said he does not know of any political views held by his nephew, though he described the suspect as active on YouTube.
“He’s a quiet kid,” Paul Crimo said. “He’s usually on his own. He’s a lonely, quiet person. He keeps everything to himself.”
Bobby Crimo, his uncle said, did not to his knowledge currently have a job, though he worked at a Panera Bread before the coronavirus pandemic.
Paul Crimo also described a discussion with the FBI on Monday afternoon. Law enforcement officials arrived at the Highwood home and, with the permission of Robert Crimo Jr., the suspect’s father, searched it after using a battering device on the door.
Crimo Jr., his brother confirmed, had previously run for mayor.
“We are good people here, and to have this is devastating,” Paul Crimo said. “I’m so heartbroken for all the families who lost their lives.”
What political leaders are saying
Vice President Kamala Harris made an unscheduled visit Tuesday to Highland Park, after her remarks to the National Education Association annual meeting in Chicago.
Harris expressed her support for the community and urged the country to “stand together and speak out” about why gun violence has to stop.
She told the people affected by the tragedy the White House stands with them and is providing all the federal resources the community asks for.
She also called for more change in gun laws.
“We’ve got to be smarter as a country, in terms of who has access to what, and in particular, assault weapons. And we’ve got to take this stuff seriously, as seriously as you are, because you have been forced to have to take this seriously,” she said.
President Joe Biden on Monday said he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day.”
He said he was going to continue to fight the “epidemic of gun violence.”
Later in the day, speaking from the White House, Biden touted a recently passed bipartisan gun safety law.
“Before I left for Europe, I signed into law the first real gun safety law in 30 years,” he said. “Things will get better still, but not without more hard work together. You all heard what happened – you all what heard what happened today, and each day we’re reminders there’s nothing guaranteed about our democracy, nothing guaranteed about our way of life – you have to fight for it, defend it, and earn it by voting, to refine, evolve, and extend the calling of America to move forward boldly and unafraid.”
The President, though, demurred after being asked whether the bill he signed less than two weeks ago might have made a difference on Monday.
“We don’t know the circumstances yet,” Biden said.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, speaking on Monday night, said he had spoken with Biden.
“If you are angry today, I’m here to tell you to be angry. I’m furious,” Pritzker, a Democrat, said on Monday. “I’m furious that yet more innocent lives were taken by gun violence. I’m furious that their loved ones are forever broken by what took place today.”
The state’s two US senators also addressed the shooting. Dick Durbin, the second-highest ranking Senate Democrat, called for stricter gun control laws.
“There is no reason for a person to own a military assault weapon. It has no value for hunting, or sports or even self-defense,” he said. “It is a killing machine.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat, also mourned those slain and pledged to direct any federal resources she could to the community.
“This morning, I got up like most Americans, like the families of (those) who were killed. To celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those … families no longer have that opportunity,” Duckworth said.
Doctor says victims were ‘blown up’ by gunfire
Dr. David Baum, a local obstetrician who treated victims on-site told CNN “the people who were killed, were killed instantly.”
Baum said he waited about a minute to make sure gunshots had stopped before jumping in to attend to the victims at the scene.
“The people who were gone, were blown up by that gunfire – blown up,” Baum said. “The horrific scene of some of the bodies is unspeakable.”
He added: “I don’t think the average person has to see a body eviscerated or a head injury that’s unspeakable, to understand that … they shouldn’t have to see that to understand what the problem is with this country.”
Two doctors from the NorthShore University Health System also spoke to reporters about the treatment of patients at Highland Park Hospital.
“There have been a lot of different events that have happened in the United States and this obviously now has hit very close to home. It is a little surreal to have to take care of an event such as this, but all of us have gone through extensive training,” said Temple, the system’s medical director.
Dr. Mark Talamonti, chairman of surgery for the health system, praised the “heroic effort” of hospital trauma surgeons, but called Monday a “tough day.”
“There’s a lot of emotions, but these trauma surgeons, their reflexes are extraordinary. They know exactly what to do,” Talamonti said. “So you stand in awe at their competency and their professionalism. But it breaks your heart to see people – innocents – essentially wounded.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated how many people died at the scene. It was five.
Helen Regan, Adrienne Broaddus, Joe Sutton, Shawn Nottingham, Chuck Johnston, Curt Devine, Eric Levenson, Claudia Dominguez, Melissa Alonso, Brynn Gingras, Steve Almasy, Jeff Winter, Yahya Abou-Ghazala, David Williams, Jason Hanna and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report