HIGHLAND PARK, Illinois (AP) – A rooftop gunman opened fire Monday during an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago, killing at least six people, injuring at least 30 and hundreds of protesters, parents with strollers and children on bicycles were sent to flee in panic, police said.
Authorities said a man named as a stakeholder in the shooting was taken into police custody Monday night after an hour-long manhunt in and around Highland Park, an affluent community of about 30,000 residents on Chicago’s north shore.
The July 4 shooting was just the last to shatter the rituals of American life. Schools, churches, grocery stores and now community parades have all become killing zones in recent months. This time the bloodshed came as the nation tried to find a reason to celebrate its founding and the ties that still hold it together.
“It definitely hits a lot harder when it’s not just your hometown, but right in front of you,” resident Ron Tuazon said as he and a friend returned to the parade route Monday night to pick up chairs, blankets and a kid’s bike that he owned. and his family left when the shooting began.
“It’s commonplace now,” Tuazon said of what he called yet another American atrocity. “We don’t blink anymore. Until the laws change, it will be more of the same.”
The shooting occurred at a spot on the parade route where many residents had set out prime vantage points early in the day for the annual celebration. Dozens of bullets fired caused hundreds of parade-goers – some visibly bloodied – to flee. They left a trail of abandoned items that showed daily life suddenly, violently disrupted: a half-eaten bag of chips; a box of chocolate chip cookies spilled on the grass; a Chicago Cubs cap for kids.
“There is no safe place,” said Barbara Harte, 73-year-old Highland Park resident who had stayed away from the parade for fear of mass shootings but later ventured out of her home.
Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said a police officer apprehended Robert E. Crimo III about five miles north of the shooting scene hours after police obtained the man’s photo and an image of his silver Honda Fit. released, and warned the public that he was likely armed and dangerous. Authorities initially said he was 22, but an FBI bulletin and Crimo’s social media said he was 21.
Police immediately declined to identify Crimo as a suspect, but said identifying him as a person of interest and sharing his name and other information publicly was a serious step.
Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli said at 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 casualties or injuries.
Lake County coroner Jennifer Banek said the five people killed during the parade were adults but had no information about the sixth victim, who was taken to a hospital and died there. One of the dead was a Mexican, Roberto Velasco, Mexico’s director for North American affairs, said on Twitter Monday. He said two other Mexicans were injured.
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 years, and Temple estimated that four or five patients were children.
Temple said 19 of them were treated and discharged. 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 was torn apart by our uniquely American plague,” Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said at a news conference.
“I’m furious because it doesn’t have to be that way…while we only celebrate July 4th once a year, mass shootings have become a weekly—yes, weekly—American tradition.”
The gunman opened fire around 10:15 a.m., when the parade was about three-quarters through, authorities said.
Highland Park Police Chief Chris O’Neill, the incident commander at the scene, said the gunman apparently used a “powerful rifle” to fire from a spot atop a commercial building where he was “very hard to see”. He said the gun 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 “appalled at the senseless gun violence that has brought new grief to an American community on this Independence Day.”
Biden Signed the Most Comprehensive Gun Violence Act passed by Congress for decades, a compromise that showed both progress on a long-untreatable issue and the deep-seated partisan divisions that persist.
As word of an arrest spread, residents who had squatted in houses began venturing outside, some walking to the site of the shooting. Several people stood staring at the scene, with abandoned picnic blankets, hundreds of lawn chairs and backpacks still where they were when the shooting started.
Police believe there was only one gunman, but warned he should still be considered armed and dangerous. Several nearby towns canceled events, including parades and fireworks, with some noting that the Highland Park shooter was still at large. The Chicago White Sox also announced on Twitter that a planned fireworks display after the game has been canceled due to the shooting.
More than 100 law enforcement officers were called or dispatched to the parade scene to locate the suspected gunman.
More than a dozen police officers surrounded a house listed as the address for Crimo in Highland Park on Monday. Some officers held rifles as they focused on the house. Police blocked roads leading to the house in a tree-lined neighborhood near a golf course, allowing only select police cars to pass through a tight perimeter.
Crimo, who goes by the name Bobby, was an aspiring rapper with the stage name Awake the Rapper, who posted dozens of videos and songs on social media, some of them ominous and violent.
In an animated video that has since been removed by YouTube, Crimo raps about armies “walking in darkness,” while a drawing appears of a man aiming a gun, a body on the ground and another figure with hands in the distance. A later frame shows a close-up of a chest with blood flowing from it and another of police cars arriving with the gunman raising his hands.
In another video, where Crimo shows up in a classroom wearing a black bike helmet, he says he’s “like a sleepwalker…I know what to do,” adding, “Everything has led to this. Nothing can stop me.” stop, not even myself.”
Crimo’s father, Bob, a longtime deli owner, unsuccessfully ran for Highland Park mayor in 2019, calling himself “a person for the people.”
Highland Park is a close-knit community of approximately 30,000 people on the shores of Lake Michigan just north of Chicago, with mansions and sprawling lakefront estates that have long attracted the rich and sometimes famous, including NBA legend Michael Jordan, who 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 joyous event suddenly turned to horror on both sides of Central Avenue where the shooting took place. Dozens of prams – some with American flags, abandoned children’s bicycles and a helmet full of 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 standing in line at his nursery, ready to walk out onto the parade route when she heard a loud noise she thought were fireworks — until she heard people yelling over a gunman. In a video that Troiani shot with her phone, some children are visibly startled by the loud noise, and they scramble to the side of the road as a siren blares nearby.
“We just start running in the opposite direction,” she told The Associated Press.
Her 5-year-old son rode his bicycle decorated with red and blue curled ribbons. He and other children in the group were holding small American flags. The city said on its website that the festivities would include a children’s bicycle and an animal parade.
Troiani said she pushed her son’s bike and ran around the neighborhood to get back to their car.
“It was just kind of chaos,” she said. “There were people who were separated from their families and looking for them. Others simply dropped their wagons, grabbed their children and started running.”
Debbie Glickman, a Highland Park resident, said she was sitting on a float with colleagues and the group was getting ready to head out onto the main trail 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 went for a run. We just ran. It’s like mass chaos down there.”
She heard no sounds and saw no one who appeared to be injured.
“I’m so shocked,” she said. “It’s just so sad.”
Foody contributed from Chicago. Associated Press writers Mike Balsamo in New York, David Koenig in Dallas, Jeff Martin in Woodstock, Georgia, Fabiola Sánchez in Monterrey, Mexico, Jim Mustian in New Orleans, Bernard Condon in New York, and Martha Irvine and Mike Householder in Highland Park contributed reporting.