Former classmates of the Highland Park, Illinois, shooting suspect on Tuesday described him as an odd, soft-spoken kid who didn’t participate in class or school activities and showed little interest in engaging with his peers.
The few friends Robert “Bobby” Crimo III had tended to be troublemakers who seemed to relish the notion of being outsiders, a couple of his former classmates said.
“They wanted to be the ‘anti-’ group, like the rebels,” said Mackenzie, a former classmate who asked to be identified only by her first name to protect her privacy. “The aura they presented was opposite, negative and harsh.”
Mackenzie said she attended middle school and high school with Crimo and once shared a Spanish class with him. “Whenever I heard him speak, it was very lifeless and negative,” she said. “He’s always been down and not enthusiastic.”
One former classmate who requested anonymity for privacy reasons said he and Crimo used to hang out and play video games and skateboard together in middle school but that they drifted apart when they were freshmen at Highland Park High School.
“He was a skater kid,” he said of Crimo in middle school. “He would make YouTube videos all the time back then. Kind of DIY videos on how to grip a skateboard or replace a wheel, stuff like that.”
But in high school, the former classmate said, Crimo grew more insular and distant.
“He was always by himself,” he said. “No one seemed to try to be his friend.”
Just before Crimo dropped out of Highland Park High in 2017, he splattered “Awake” stickers in the school’s stairways and bathrooms, the former classmate said. Crimo made rap music under the name “Awake the Rapper.”
On Monday, when authorities announced that Crimo was “a person of interest” in the Fourth of July shooting, a one-time friend said he “was not shocked.”
Molly Handelman, who also said she attended middle school and high school with Crimo, described him as a “very quiet” guy. “When he did talk, he was very soft. He didn’t seem aggressive ever, at all.”
Handelman, who worked with Crimo on class projects a few times, said “something definitely seemed off” with him.
“If he was asked to speak, he definitely had an opinion,” she said. “I just remember if he was asked to speak, he would be like, ‘I don’t care,’ kind of thing.”
“He made it very clear he didn’t care about school,” Handelman said. “His friends got into trouble pretty often in school. He stayed pretty reserved and quiet, so it seemed pretty interesting how he was very quiet but his friends were very rebellious,” she added.
Handelman said she was shocked to learn of Monday’s shooting. “It’s very traumatizing. A lot of people in Highland Park feel like it’s a very safe community,” she said.
Another former classmate, who also requested CNN not use his name due to privacy concerns, said Crimo “kind of kept his head down, listened to music, walked through the hallways, minded his own business.” This classmate, however, said he didn’t think there was a darker side to Crimo’s reclusive nature. “By no means was I like ‘this kid has demons,’” he told CNN.