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Mass shooting at Highland Park parade on July 4, 5 dead, 16 hospitalized

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Six people were killed and possibly more than two dozen others injured when a gunman started firing from a rooftop 10 minutes after the Highland Park Fourth of July parade started Monday morning, authorities said.

Shortly after noon, Highland Park police said it remained an “active incident” and urged people to stay away. Authorities continued to hunt for the shooter, and the FBI asked anyone who had video footage of the shooting or possible information about the shooter to call their toll-free tipline at (800) CALL-FBI.

A reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times saw blankets over three bloodied bodies and five other injured and bloodied people near the parade’s overhaul booth.

NorthShore University Health System said 26 people were taken to Highland Park Hospital and five to Evanston Hospital, with the “vast majority” being treated for gunshot wounds, although some had “ongoing injuries from the ensuing chaos during the parade.”

Several witnesses said they heard multiple shots. A witness said he counted more than 20 shots.

Miles Zaremski, a resident of Highland Park, told the Sun-Times: “I heard 20 to 25 shots, coming in quick succession. So it couldn’t have just been a pistol or a shotgun.”

Zaremski said he saw “people in that area being shot,” including “a woman covered in blood . . . She didn’t survive.”

The police said to the people: “Everyone break up, please. It’s not safe to be here.”

As they fled the parade route on Central Street in downtown Highland Park, the panicked parade-goers left behind chairs, prams and blankets as they took cover, not knowing exactly what was happening. Even as people ran, a klezmer band continued to play, seemingly oblivious to the gunfire.

A Fourth of July parade goer in Highland Park takes cover after shots are fired.

Highland Park police and several other jurisdictions, including Illinois State Police, some armed with rifles, patrolled the area, looking for whoever fired the shots.

“Looks like he was shooting from a rooftop,” Lake County Sheriff’s Chris Covelli said.

Adrienne Drell, a former Sun-Times reporter, said she was sitting on a curb along Central Avenue watching the parade when she saw members of the Highland Park High School marching band running.

“Go to Sunset,” Drell said, hearing the students screaming and directing people to nearby Sunset Foods.

A man lifted her off the curb and urged her to get out, Drell said.

“There’s panic all over town,” she said. “Everyone is just stunned.”

She ran to a nearby parking lot with other people who had been watching the parade.

“It was a quiet, peaceful, beautiful morning. People were enjoying the parade,” Drell said. “Within seconds, it’s terrifying to see that peace suddenly shattered. You can’t go anywhere, you can’t find peace. I think we’re falling apart.”

Terrified parade-goers fled Highland Park's Fourth of July parade after shots were fired, leaving their belongings behind as they searched for safety.

Terrified parade-goers fled Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade after shots were fired, leaving their belongings behind as they searched for safety.

Eric Trotter, 37, who lives blocks from the shooting, echoed that sentiment.

“I was shocked,” said Trotter. “How could this happen in a peaceful community like Highland Park.”

As police cars sped by on Central Avenue, sirens blaring, Alexander Sandoval, 39, sat on a couch and cried. He’d got up before seven in the morning to set out lawn chairs and a blanket in front of the parade’s main stage. He lives within walking distance there, so he went home to have breakfast with his son, partner and stepdaughter before heading back for the parade.

Hours later, he said he and his family ran away in fear for their lives after hearing gunshots.

“We saw the marches and floats of the Navy go by, and when I first heard the shots I thought they were saluting the flag and firing blanks,” Sandoval said. “But then I saw that people started running, and the shots kept going. We started running.”

He said he and his partner Amairani Garcia ran in different directions in the chaos, he with his 5-year-old son Alex, she with her 6-year-old daughter Melani.

“I grabbed my son and tried to break into one of the local buildings, but I couldn’t,” Sandoval said. “The shooting has stopped. I think he was reloading. So I kept running and ran down an alley and put my son in a trash can so he could be safe.

Then he said he went looking for the rest of his family and saw bodies on the floor in pools of blood.

“I saw a little boy who was shot being carried away,” Sandoval said. “It was just terror.”

He found his partner and stepdaughter, safe, in a nearby McDonald’s.

“This isn’t happening here,” he said. “It shouldn’t happen anywhere.”

Don Johnson, 76, who lives about two blocks from the shooting scene, initially thought the gunfire was a backfire from a car. He said he ran to a nearby BP gas station with several other people and described the scene as “surreal.”

“It’s just a terrible thing,” he said. “I never thought this would have happened in downtown Highland Park.”

Johnson said his daughter lives in Chicago with her son and he has urged them to move to Highland Park.

Now, he said, it’s clear that “it can happen anywhere.”

Governor JB Pritzker said he was “closely monitoring the situation in Highland Park” and that Illinois state police were on the scene.

The parade had a heavy police and fire engine presence.

Contributors: Zack Miller, Sophie Sherry

This is a story in development. Come back for updates.

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