HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. – Prosecutors charged the suspected gunman in the shooting rampage at a Fourth of July parade in this Chicago suburb with seven counts of first-degree murder Tuesday, hoping to put him behind bars for the rest of his life.
Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart said that, if convicted, Robert E. "Bobby'' Crimo III faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"These are just the first of many charges that will be filed against Mr. Crimo,'' Rinehart said. "I want to emphasize that. There will be more charges. We anticipate dozens of more charges.''
Police said Crimo fired more than 70 shots from a rooftop Monday, killing seven people and wounding nearly 40 more with a legally purchased assault rifle before fleeing. He was captured that evening after an intense manhunt.
►Investigators have interrogated the suspect and reviewed his social media posts but provided no motive for the attack, describing it only as "random."
►Lake County Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said the gun – “similar to an AR-15” – was legally purchased by Crimo in the Chicago area.
Hundreds gather for vigil the day after shooting
Hundreds of people congregated in downtown Highland Park Tuesday evening, blocks from the scene of the shooting. Families, neighbors and friends held hands, hugged and cried. Others laughed and smiled as they unexpectedly bumped into loved ones.
“It’s good to face your fear and come back to the scene. There’s something about coming back,” said Elise Dayan, 54, a 21-year resident of Highland Park.
Some exchanged stories of where they were during the parade. Some hung orange ribbons—for gun safety—in the trees. Others placed flowers, prayed and lit candles. Many kids wore Highland Park High School shirts and sweatshirts.
“It feels good to be with other people going through the same thing,” said Highland Park native Lucy Melinger, 19, who lives a block from the scene of the shooting.
Melinger said the gunshots could be heard from her house during Monday's shooting, and that her family at the parade ran back to the house amid the panic.
– Grace Hauck
Suspect was visited by police twice in 2019 — had knives confiscated
The man accused of killing seven people and wounding dozens at a Fourth of July parade was the subject of two police visits in 2019, one after he threatened "to kill everyone'' in the house, police said Tuesday.
Covelli said Crimo III had 16 knives, a dagger and a sword confiscated during that incident in September 2019. Five months earlier, police had responded to a reported suicide attempt by Crimo, according to Covelli.
Crimo, 21, planned the attack for weeks, police said, and was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder. After firing more than 70 shots from a rooftop, Crimo abandoned an assault rifle he had bought legally, blended into the crowd by wearing women's clothes and walked to his mother's home, said Covelli, who revealed a seventh victim died Tuesday.
Another rifle and three other weapons, also purchased legally, were found in the car Crimo was driving Monday evening when he returned to Illinois after driving to Wisconsin and was spotted by a neighbor who called 911. He was arrested after an intensive manhunt.
Six of seven victims identified, ages 35-88
The Lake County Coroner's office identified the six people killed Monday in the shooting rampage at Highland Park. A seventh victim died Tuesday, authorities said, but they have not revealed the person's name.
Five of the six identified victims lived in Highland Park. The exception was Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78, who hailed from Morelos, Mexico.
The other five who died Monday were:
Katherine Goldstein, 64; Irina McCarthy, 35; Kevin McCarthy, 37; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63; and Stephen Straus, 88.
The victims included a dedicated synagogue worker, a grandfather watching Fourth of July festivities from his wheelchair, and the parents of a two-year-old son.
Vice President Harris visits Highland Park
Vice President Kamala Harris paid an unannounced visit late Tuesday to the site of the violence.
Harris’ motorcade arrived at the shooting site at 7:05 p.m. local time. Children’s bikes, a baby stroller, water coolers, toys and lawn chairs were scattered along the brick sidewalks. Harris and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, who were invited to visit by Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, spoke for several minutes to local officials. Nearby residents shouted "Thank you for coming."
"We have to take this stuff seriously," Harris said. "The whole nation should understand and have a level of empathy to understand that this can happen anywhere, in any peace-loving community. And we should stand together."
Earlier Tuesday, Harris called the shooting “a senseless act of gun violence” during remarks to a meeting of the National Education Association in Chicago.
“We need to end this horror,” she said. “We need to stop this violence. And we must protect our communities from the terror of gun violence.”
– Michael Collins
Grieving at vigil: 'There’s no five-step plan for this'
Pearson Lau, a lead pastor at Trinity Grace Church in Highland Park, stood outside his congregation with a 10-foot cross high in the background and spoke to reporters choked up with emotion. He was leading a vigil service one day after a mass shooting killed seven and injured dozens in the affluent Chicago suburb.
“As a Christian, I don’t think we have all the answers in scripture for something like this,” Lau said. “God doesn’t say, ‘Here’s why people do evil things.’ I wish we did. I read in my devotion this morning. It said, ‘God bottles our tears and he recounts our loss.’ The hope that we have is that he’ll bring justice and righteousness to this world one day.''
Lau spoke to grieving parishioners for an hour, many of them teary-eyed entering and leaving the church — some processing stories of personal heartache and others still in shock from the trauma endured by a close-knit community.
Charlotte Bank was one attendee filled with mixed emotions in her mourning. Bank told reporters she had seen the shooter, Robert Crimo III, attend services at that church. “(I’m) here to reconcile my own feelings,” she said.
Lau said the Fourth of July tragedy illustrates the need for more awareness about the impact of shootings regardless of the community where they take place.
"I’ve heard a lot of people say this is not the type of thing to happen in Highland Park,'' Lau said. "But our brothers and sisters on the south side of Chicago, they see this almost every single day. We grow callous to that. Numbers just become numbers.
“The way that I’ve been thinking about it (at the vigil) is to do God’s work and just get out of the way. There’s no five-step plan for (grieving) this.”
– Scott Gleeson
Teenage resident recalls Crimo as someone 'up to no good'
Highland Park resident Martin Brubaker, 18, said he recalls Bobby Crimo coming into the local Jewel Osco supermarket several times with a group of friends, "high'' and wearing hoodies in the middle of summer.
“When I saw him, I was like, that guy is up to no good,'' Brubaker said. "It’s not that I thought he was gonna do this. It’s more like I don’t want to talk to that guy.”
Crimo can be seen in a widely circulated Chicago Tribune photo of a Trump rally. The man standing to Crimo’s right in the photo is Peter Christos, 18, according to Deerfield resident Natalie Reed, 18, who attended school with Christos at Glenbrook North.
“He’s very anti-mask, anti-vaccine,” Reed said of Christos. “He would kind of harass other students for wearing masks. He rallied up a bunch of people and did a lot of Trump rallies. He’s the one who got people together for most of them in Northbrook.”
– Grace Hauck
'Legally obtained guns' a big issue, mayor says
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering signed a city ordinance banning assault weapons almost a decade ago, after the Sandy Hook massacre, so the rifle allegedly used in Monday's attack couldn't be legally purchased in the Chicago suburb.
"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 that "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."
Suspect was turned away at synagogue in April, rabbi says
Crimo apparently tried to enter a synagogue near the shooting site in April and was turned away, according to Rabbi Yosef Schanowitz, co-director of the North Suburban Lubavitch Chabad – Central Avenue Synagogue.
Schanowitz told USA TODAY on Tuesday that authorities have asked him not to speak about the specifics, but confirmed Crimo was asked to leave his synagogue shortly after entering during Passover services. Like many synagogues, the Central Avenue one is guarded by armed security during services, Schanowitz said.
The synagogue is located along the parade route, and Schanowitz said he rushed outside after the shooting to help protect four Chicago-area teens who were staffing a Jewish information table.
"The first thing I told them was to call their parents," said Schanowitz, who comforted victims and residents after the attack.
"You hear people who are in disbelief, there are people who are angry, and there are people who are sad and in shock," he said.
– Trevor Hughes
The day after: Residents reeling with shock, pain
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 lay outside the caution tape and street blocked off by police. Merel, a longtime resident, 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. “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.”
'Now Highland Park is in the list of those towns' hit by mass shootings
Justin Dickman, 15, and his siblings made a family tradition of attending the parade each year but skipped Monday's event. If they had attended, sitting in their usual spot outside a T-shirt shop, they’d have been half a block away from the shooter.
He used to bike around Highland Park without worrying about his safety. Now, Dickman's not sure if anywhere is truly safe.
“Where I grew up is a crime scene now. Knowing that people died where I frequent often, it’s hard to believe,” he said.
A sense of disbelief among residents was paired with the realization that a mass shooting could happen anywhere, even their affluent, quiet suburb.
Highland Park will be listed among Buffalo, Uvalde, Texas, and other cities known for their mass tragedies, said Debbie Winick, who was walking her dog with her daughter.
“I just woke up with that sinking feeling,'' Winick said. "Like, here we are. Now Highland Park is in the list of those towns.”
– Sophie Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Strong gun laws could face Supreme Court rebuke
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.”
Witness: 'It just devolved. It was chaos.'
Adam Sherman, 30, of Deerfield, was at the parade with his parents and was planning to meet up with his sister and her three children, but he ran into his first-grade teacher and stopped to chat. Soon after, Sherman’s father heard about eight pops and remarked, “They shouldn’t be making those kinds of sounds, given the times we live in.”
About 30 seconds later, more shots rang out, and Sherman saw a flood of people running in his direction. Sherman’s father started searching for his daughter and children, but he couldn’t find them. They all began running too.
“One second, it was the parade, and then it just devolved. It was chaos,” Sherman said. “One of those moments, visually, that unfortunately I don’t think I’ll ever forget.”
Sherman learned that his sister and her children got home safely. But he worries about how the children, all under 7 years old, will be able to live with what happened.
As Sherman spoke on a sidewalk near the shooting scene, a loud noise came from a cement truck nearby, startling him and the others around him.
“We shouldn’t have to live in fear,” he said in response.
– Sophie Carson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Governor pushes for stricter gun regulations
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."
Panic at fireworks displays in other cities
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.
Holiday shootings in Philadelphia, Minneapolis
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."
Mass shootings 'an American tradition'?
There have been 15 shootings in which four or more people have been killed, including the Highland Park attack, 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.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Highland Park shooting live updates: 7 counts of first-degree murder