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Robert Bobby Crimo III, alleged mass shooter in Highland Park, left trail of red flags

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When Highland Park mayor Nancy Rotering revealed on Tuesday that she knew Robert “Bobby” Crimo, the 21-year-old accused of raining indiscriminate gunfire during a peaceful July 4th parade in an attack that left seven dead. and dozens were injured, she expressed her shock that a “little boy” from the cub scouts would somehow become a mass murderer.

But some people who grew up with Crimo — a lanky, ambitious YouTube rapper adorned with tattoos and his music full of violent imagery — said they saw troubling warning signs.

“There were a lot of red flags with him,” a former classmate from Highland Park High School told The Daily Beast. “I told my teacher I didn’t want to sit next to him. He really scared me.”

Hours after Highland Park, a town once best known as the setting of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and sixteen candles, became the latest site of gunfire massacre in America, a community struggling to understand why it became a target. And why the son of a prominent local businessman running for mayor had descended into a twisted online world obsessed with mass murder, memes and chaos — and whether he might have quit before it was too late.

By all accounts, Crimo was not a well-adjusted teenager who suddenly went wild in recent weeks. On Tuesday, police revealed a September 2019 incident in which Crimo allegedly threatened to “kill everyone in his family” while hoarding 16 knives, a dagger and a sword. He had also attempted suicide that same April, police said.

Neither incident resulted in an arrest, which may have made it easier for him to legally purchase the weapons, which police say killed innocent people.

A review of Crimo’s social media posts, online discourse and music videos point to someone clearly obsessed with violent imagery, mass shootings and high-profile murderers. But conversations with people who know him suggested that, even if his behavior was disturbing at times, it was difficult to wean his more banal adolescent habits, such as his love of hip-hop, from the potential for evil.

“He would always show violent things to anyone,” added the same former classmate, pointing out that she had a class with Crimo and that he often acted. “Violent music videos and lyrics. He would try to promote his rapping to everyone.”

Authorities are not yet sure of the motive behind the deadly shooting. But they said Crimo spent weeks planning the horrific attack that was launched from a rooftop, where he opened fire at random parade goers in anticipation of floats and marching bands below.

Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli, a spokesman for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, said on Tuesday that Crimo wore women’s clothing during the attack “to hide his facial tattoos and his identity, as well as help him escape with… other people fleeing the chaos.” .”

He then quickly disappeared into the chaotic crowd before finally running to his mother’s house and borrowing her car, police said, noting that he had legally obtained the gun they found from the roof that Crimo allegedly used. like a sniper’s nest.

Crimo has been charged with seven first-degree murders, Lake County State Attorney Eric Rinehart said Tuesday, noting that he expected more charges to follow. He is due for a hearing on Wednesday morning.

What appeared to be his mother’s home in Highland Park on Tuesday stood out in a well-maintained neighborhood: the grass and plants were overgrown and the front door glass almost fell out of the window when it was opened.

Denise Pesina sat in the driveway in a small white car, talking on the phone with the engine running. She cordially refused to answer questions and referred The Daily Beast to her lawyer.

No one opened the door to the home of Robert Crimo Jr., the father of the suspected shooter, where the 21-year-old lived in the apartment at the back of the property. It was unclear if and when the parents stopped living together.

An emblematic car is parked outside the home where Robert Crimo III, lives in the Chicago suburb of Highwood, Illinois, on July 5, 2022.

Photo by MAX HERMAN/AFP via Getty Images

While neither of Crimo’s parents responded to requests for comment, their lawyer told The Daily Beast they were “absolutely in shock” at the allegations against their son.

Attorney Steven Greenberg, who previously represented R. Kelly, said the pair “don’t know what happened” at the parade — and what could have led Crimo to be involved in such a horrific plot.

“No one thinks a tragedy of this magnitude would befall their family. When they first heard about the shooting, they had no idea Bobby could be involved.”

Greenberg admitted that Crimo’s parents knew he had legally obtained several firearms in Illinois, but emphasized that his clients never imagined that something like Monday’s tragedy could happen. He suggested they were holding on to hopes that the police were somehow wrong – that “it turns out it’s not what it seems” because no parent “wants to wake up to the knowledge that their child, whom they love and who they have cherished, spend the rest of their lives in prison.”

Authorities arrested Crimo after a seven-hour manhunt when a North Chicago police officer spotted the car he was believed to be driving. The 21-year-old fled but was arrested after a short chase in Lake Forest. Police found a second legally purchased rifle in the car.

That Crimo’s parents weren’t exactly nobody made the shooting even more disturbing for some of his former classmates.

“His father ran a popular deli in the area and even ran for mayor in 2019,” Mark Heymann, who was a year older than Crimo at school but said he had known the family for years, told The Daily Beast.

Crimo Jr., who lost the race by a two-to-one margin to the incumbent, ran under the slogan “A person for the people”. A since-deleted Facebook profile suggests Crimo’s mother was involved in the world of alternative medicine.

Jeremy Cahnmann, who ran an after-school sports program at Lincoln Elementary School, told Fox News that Crimo’s parents were always the last to pick up him and his younger brother after classes. He said Crimo was just 9 or 10 when he enrolled in the school’s Nerf football program.

“I remember the parents more than him because they were kind of a problem,” Cahnmann said. “The boy was very quiet, very gentle, never made a problem.”

Several former classmates told The Daily Beast that Crimo was “quiet” – a “loner” who never really got along with a group. Heymann, who participated in cub scouts with Crimo in elementary school, said that “something” [was] was out, something wasn’t right with him” and said he didn’t know “if he had any friends.”

Another person who was on cub scouts with Crimo said he lost touch with him after high school but remembered him as a quiet, sweet-natured skate park boy.

“He was definitely judged a bit on his goth-esque image,” the former acquaintance told The Daily Beast. “It’s not the most typical thing in Highland Park.”

But the same former classmate said that Crimo’s father’s sandwich shop, Bob’s Pantry, was a popular spot in Highland Park and that he often saw Crimo standing behind the counter, lending a hand with the family business. In that sense, he seemed like a normal child to them.

“He was never a troublemaker” in high school, the former classmate said, unlike other interviewees.

Ethan Absler, another student who was a year ahead of Crimo in high school, insisted the suspect had “behavioral red flags.” In particular, Absler said he was very challenging in class, incessantly promoting his music, and “was the type of student where teachers realized they needed to discipline him in a different way or be more realistic about his behavior.”

But the former classmate still felt there was “nothing to indicate he was capable of anything” like Monday’s shooting. From Absler’s perspective, Crimo led “a secret double life we ​​knew nothing about.”

Photo by MAX HERMAN/AFP via Getty Images

In high school, Heymann added, Crimo started uploading rap songs on YouTube and went by the name Awake the Rapper on social media. He posted several violent music videos online, including a rough animation of a gunman being killed by the police. In another, Crimo sits in an empty classroom, dressed in tactical gear and draped in an American flag.

NBC News reported that Crimo had his own Discord channel that was shut down after the shooting — and that he visited a bulletin board devoted to the death, where he posted a beheading video.

Crimo’s posts also showed that he was wearing a Trump flag as a cape. Another photo of Crimo showed him at a Trump rally dressed as Waldo. But he also liked a Twitter video of President Biden, and no clear picture of political extremism emerged in the hours following the attack.

Two of Crimo’s online friends who also produce music said rolling stone that while he struggled with mental health issues and didn’t have many friends in real life, they were missing important warning signs.

“I knew there was something in his head that was bothering him,” said Nodfather, an independent producer who was friends with Crimo for years after meeting him on Discord. “Honestly, it was a big part of him isolating himself.”

The former high school classmate who recalled Crimo showing violent content to his peers noted that he once got into trouble for promoting stickers promoting his music on school grounds.

While classmate mostly forgot Crimo in the years that followed, she said she wondered if he would be the parade shooter when she learned a younger white male suspect was on the loose.

“This is really bizarre, but I said to someone, ‘This must be someone from Highland Park that I know,’ and one of the first things I thought was Bobby Crimo because of all the things he’s done,” she said.

—with reporting by Daniel Brown in Illinois


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