HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. – The man accused of killing six people and wounding dozens more at a Fourth of July parade planned the rooftop rampage for weeks and donned women’s clothes to help ease his escape into the crowd, police said Tuesday.
Lake County Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said Robert E. Crimo III, 21, acted alone and fired more than 70 shots. Crimo then abandoned the assault rifle, climbed down from the roof and walked to his mother’s home, Covelli said.
Hours later a neighbor saw Crimo driving a silver Honda Fit and called 911, Covelli said. Crimo was taken into custody without incident a short time later. A second rifle was found in his vehicle.
“We do believe Crimo preplanned the attack for several weeks,” Covelli said.
Charges were expected to be announced soon, he said. Investigators have interrogated the suspect and reviewed his social media posts but provided no motive for the attack, describing it only as “random.” He said the gun – “similar to an AR-15” – was legally purchased by Crimo in the Chicago area.
Mayor Nancy Rotering signed a city ordinance banning assault weapons almost a decade ago.
“At some point this nation needs to have a conversation about these weekly events involving the murder of dozens of people with legally obtained guns,” she said in an interview on NBC’s Today show. “If that’s what our laws stand for then I think we have to examine the laws.”
Rotering said “somebody clearly had a mental breakdown” but that the focus should be on access to guns, not mental health.
“I want us to talk about the fact that there are weapons of war on our streets that people can legally obtain – and then take out dozens of people,” she said. “Our community is never going to recover from its wound.”
A dedicated synagogue worker and a grandfather watching Fourth of July festivities from his wheelchair were among the victims of the shooting. Authorities have not publicly released names, but some identities were emerging Tuesday.
Nicolas Toledo, 76, was among those killed, his granddaughter, Alba Toledo, 23, confirmed in a message to USA TODAY, adding that the family is “shattered.”
“It’s an enormous pain,” she said. “Believe me my grandfather was a great person, with an enormous heart, he was the best grandfather, loving, attentive.” Read more here.
Zoe Kolpack, a prekindergarten teacher at William Dever Elementary School, her husband, father and brother-in-law were shot in front of the couple’s children, family friend Samantha Whitehead said in a statement on GoFundMe. The fundraiser, which was shared on social media by the Chicago Teachers Union, has raised more than $100,000 for the family’s medical bills.
Whitehead said the children were not injured in the shooting, but all four family members are “in the hospital undergoing various surgeries.”
“The continued support leaves us all at a loss for words,” she wrote. “Your generosity is appreciated more than you will ever know.”
– N’dea Yancey-Bragg, Cady Stanton and Christine Fernando
FBI agents and other law enforcement officers peered into trash cans, looked under picnic blankets and scoured Central Avenue at the site of the shooting searching for evidence. Tori Merel, her husband, Brian, and their 2-year-old son Miles placed flowers by the crime scene. Several bouquets of flowers laid outside of the caution tape and street blocked off by police. Merel has lots of friends and family in Highland Park but said none were wounded.
“This is heartbreaking to see this happening here,” said Merel, 38, and a longtime resident said. “We live close by. My son loves firetrucks. I was thinking to myself we should take him to the parade because he loves firetrucks.”
That’s when they started hearing sirens. Word quickly spread that there was a mass shooter.
“If this can happen here, I promise it can happen anywhere,” she said. “This is the last place I would ever imagine something like this happening.”
The drumbeat for tighter gun regulations is growing louder, but it might be too late for legislation that could make a difference, warns Dr. Jonathan Metzl, professor of sociology and director of the Center for Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University.
“We are seeing politicians powerfully speaking out about changes to gun laws to make communities like Highland Park safer from gunfire,” Metlz told USA TODAY. “However, practically every intervention proposed, such as limiting assault rifles in public and instituting red flag laws, is likely unconstitutional under the recent Supreme Court gun legislation ruling.”
Highland Park officials passed its ordinance banning AR-15s and AK-47s in June 2013 – about six months after a 20-year-old gunman strolled into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and started shooting. When he had stopped, 20 children and six staff members were dead. Rotering helped draft the ordinance, and the U.S. Supreme Court later declined to hear an appeal seeking to overturn the ordinance.
Lauren Silva, 38, and her boyfriend were heading to Walker Bros, a breakfast place on the July 4 parade route, when they first heard the gunshots and saw the carnage. The couple rushed to help a man who was bleeding on the ground and a toddler pinned beneath him, The New York Times reported. Silva, who is from Deerfield, Illinois, told the outlet she took the child, who had a few scrapes and a bloody sock, to an underground parking garage and cleaned his wounds.
She tried to comfort the boy as he repeatedly asked if his parents were OK. Silva, a mother of two, told the Times she “held him like he was my own” before returning to the street to ask about the injured man.
“That’s when my boyfriend said that he passed,” she told the Daily Beast of the man whom she believes to be the boy’s father. The boy was later reunited with his grandparents. Silva is still coping with the shock
“The only thing I could hold onto is that kid’s face and his touch and the sound of his voice,” she said. USA TODAY has reached out to Silva for comment.
– N’dea Yancey-Bragg
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, speaking at a news conference hours after the rampage, said the nation’s founding fathers carried muskets, not assault weapons, and would not have agreed to a constitutional right to an assault weapon with a high-capacity magazine.
“Grief will not bring the victims back, and prayers alone will not put a stop to the terror of rampant gun violence in our country,” Pritzker, a Democrat, said on Twitter. “I will stand firm with Illinoisans and Americans: we must – and we will – end this plague of gun violence.”
Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey apologized for suggesting people “move on” during a Facebook live stream from Skokie, where the Fourth of July parade was canceled after the shooting here.
“The shooter is still at large,” Bailey said. “So let’s pray for justice to prevail, and then let’s move on and let’s celebrate the independence of this nation.”
The impact of Monday’s shooting rampage was felt across the nation. In Orlando, the fireworks celebration at Lake Eola was abruptly ended amid reports of a shooting that caused a chaotic scramble as the crowd fled the area.
“To our community members now in Downtown Orlando, please know that there is NO evidence of a shooting in the area,” Orlando Police tweeted. “Our officers are now working to secure the area. There is NO public safety hazard at this time.”
In Harrisburg, Pa., fears of a shooting sent hundreds of people running moments before the city’s fireworks display started. Police said the panic may have been prompted when kids threw firecrackers at the ground.
Police later reported that a fight had broken out but that “contrary to some reports, there were no shots fired.”
In Washington, D.C., two loud noises near 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW prompted people nearby to flee toward the National Mall, The Washington Post reported. Authorities on the scene confirmed the sounds were fireworks and said the noises probably sparked the alarm.
Eight people were wounded, some critically, in a shooting in a Minneapolis park during an unofficial Fourth of July celebration. Police said the assault took place about 11:30 p.m. Monday at Boom Island Park.
“We were just watching fireworks and we just heard a whole bunch of shots,” Kaayla Laanaee told WCCO-TV. “I just heard them going over my head to the trees.”
In Philadelphia two police officers were shot during the city’s Welcome America Party Monday night. Both were treated at a hospital and released early Tuesday.
“I’m waiting for something bad to happen all the time.” Mayor Jim Kenney said. “I’ll be happy when I’m not mayor and I can enjoy some stuff.”
There have been 15 shootings where four or more people have been killed, including the Highland Park one, across the nation so far in 2022, according to The Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University mass killing database.
Pritzker said that “while we celebrate the Fourth of July just once a year, mass shootings have become a weekly – yes, weekly – American tradition.”
BAND MEMBERS EYEWITNESSES TO TRAGEDY:The band struck up a joyous tune as they traveled in the parade. Then the shooting started.
A suspect was named within hours of the shooting, and Robert “Bobby” Crimo III, 21, became the subject of a massive manhunt. At approximately 6:30 p.m., the suspect was apprehended and taken into custody without incident, police said. Video showed a silver Honda Fit – which authorities said Crimo was driving – stopped at an intersection with its doors open. Police had said Crimo was likely armed and dangerous.
“This individual is believed to have been responsible for what happened,” said Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli in announcing Crimo’s arrest. Covelli said a “significant amount of digital evidence” helped lead investigators to Crimo.
Rotering said she remembers the man taken into custody hours after Monday’s rampage from her days as a local Cub Scout leader.
“Its one of those things were you step back and you say ‘What happened?” . “How did somebody become this angry, this hateful to take it out on innocent people who literally were just having a family day out?”
Crimo was being processed by Highland Park police and could be charged Tuesday, Rotering said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Source: GANNETT Syndication Service