Parade Suspect Told Family He’d ‘Kill Everyone’ Years Before Massacre

·9 min read
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Photos by Reuters/WGN News
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Photos by Reuters/WGN News

The Illinois man accused of fatally gunning down seven people and wounding dozens more at a Fourth of July parade threatened to “kill everyone” in his immediate family nearly three years ago, according to authorities.

Alleged mass shooter Robert “Bobby” Crimo, 21, made the chilling vow in September 2019, Dep. Chief Christopher Covelli, a spokesman for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

A relative called police at the time, telling officers that Crimo had “a collection of knives,” said Covelli. Cops seized 16 knives, a dagger, and a sword from Crimo’s home, where he lived with his parents and siblings. There was not sufficient probable cause to arrest Crimo for the threat, and no complaint was filed, according to Covelli, who said the Highland Park Police Department “did immediately notify the Illinois State Police of the incident.”

“The threat was directed at family inside of the home,” said Covelli.

He noted that Crimo had previously come to the attention of authorities in April 2019, when an unnamed individual “contacted [the] Highland Park Police Department a week after learning of Mr. Crimo attempting suicide.”

“The matter was being handled by mental health professionals at that time,” he explained. “There was no law enforcement action to be taken. It was a mental health issue and handled by those professionals.”

Crimo dressed as a woman to disguise himself during Monday’s rampage, police said. He “did this to conceal his facial tattoos and his identity, and help him during the escape with... other people who were fleeing the chaos,” according to Covelli.

Crimo has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, with “dozens of more” charges expected, Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart announced Tuesday evening.

“We will stand with the survivors of this awful crime for as long as is necessary,” Rinehart said. “In the courtroom, we will seek the maximum sentence against this offender. Not because we seek vengeance, but because justice and the healing process demand it.”

The gun used at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade was purchased legally in Illinois by Crimo, who had been planning the attack for “several weeks,” according to Covelli. After the massacre, he blended into the crowd and ran to his mother’s home, he added. Police believe Crimo fired more than 70 rounds at innocent spectators there to enjoy the day, Covelli said.

“My boyfriend handed me this little boy and said he was underneath this father who was shot in the leg,” one parade-goer told The Daily Beast. “They were trying to stop the bleeding so I brought the boy downstairs into the garage.”

Crimo’s disguise reportedly included a dress and a long wig, which can be seen in a photograph obtained by Chicago news outlet WGN Investigates.

On Tuesday morning, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering used an interview on NBC’s Today to reflect on the horrific slaughter in her quiet Chicago suburb. Highland Park has had an assault-weapons ban in place since 2013. Illinois does not have a statewide assault weapons ban, but does require mandatory background checks, bars domestic abusers and stalkers from buying guns, and prohibits people from carrying guns inside schools, bars, and at demonstrations. According to gun safety nonprofit Everytown, Illinois’ gun laws are the sixth-toughest in the U.S. behind Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, and California—which has a 37 percent lower death rate from guns than the national average.

“I don’t know where the gun came from, but I do know that it was legally obtained,” Rotering said. “I think 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. If that’s what our laws stand for, we need to re-examine the laws.”

Authorities have not yet released the exact make of the gun or where and when it was bought, but Covelli described it as “similar to an AR-15.” It was left on the rooftop that the gunman used as a sniper’s nest, firing indiscriminately into crowds of families enjoying the parade. The Highland Park Police Department did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request on Tuesday morning for more information about the purchase of the weapon.

Crimo owned a total of five firearms, all of which were purchased legally, Covelli said, noting that the cache included at least two rifles, “some pistols, and possibly a shotgun.” Police seized all of the weapons from Crimo’s father’s home on Monday, according to Covelli.

On Tuesday afternoon, Master Sgt. Delilah Garcia of the Illinois State Police said all gun owners in the state are required to apply for a FOID card, or Firearm Owner’s Identification card. As to how Crimo was able to legally obtain a firearm after two troubling incidents, Garcia explained that when Highland Park cops informed the State Police of the event, there was no FOID card “or anything to revoke or to review.”

Asked if there was some mechanism to prevent someone like Crimo from getting a FOID card later on, Garcia replied, “Well, at that time basically—he didn’t have a pending application. So there was nothing to review at that time when we got that notification. We didn’t know a few months later something else would happen."

If police had been aware of Crimo’s violent social media posts, they would “absolutely” have investigated, according to Garcia.

“Law enforcement is going to do everything they possibly can to ensure the community is kept safe, but if we don’t know about it, it’s hard for us to investigate,” she said.

Tom Durkin, who has been retained to represent Crimo, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday he briefly spoke to his client “for about an hour” and that he “seemed OK.”

Noting that he tried to see Crimo on Monday evening after he was apprehended but was “not permitted to see him,” Durkin said their phone conversation mostly centered on an anticipated bond hearing on Wednesday.

Steven Greenberg, who is representing Crimo’s parents, told The Daily Beast that his clients are “absolutely shocked” about the allegations against their son. The lawyer, who previously represented R. Kelly in Chicago, added that Crimo’s parents are searching for answers into what happened on Monday—and are dealing with their own loss because they knew “some of the victims’ families” themselves.

“That’s the real tragedy for them,” Greenberg said. “Some of the victims’ families have reached out to the parents because they share a sad, common bond.”

Greenberg provided a statement from Crimo’s parents, which noted that “we are all mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and this is a terrible tragedy for many families, the victims, the paradegoers, the community, and our own. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go out to everybody.”

NBC 5 reported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms used DNA collected from a rifle found at the scene of the attack to identify Crimo. In addition to the ATF, Covelli said the Highland Park PD, the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, the Illinois State Police, and the FBI were assisting in the investigation, as well.

Local law enforcement detained Crimo after a short chase Monday evening, after a cop spotted his silver Honda Fit.

“There are no indications that there was anybody else involved in this attack,” Covelli said on Tuesday. “By all indications, it appears Crimo was acting by himself.”

Disturbing videos posted on the Illinois local’s social-media channels—where Crimo used the alias Awake the Rapper—are riddled with violent images and mass-shooting fantasy, including an animation in which a gunman is killed by cops.

As The Daily Beast reported, Crimo last year posted a video on his personal blog that showed Central Avenue in Highland Park—the main artery of yesterday’s parade route.

Another made reference to John F. Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Crimo also reportedly posted a video to an online message board of a person being beheaded.

Crimo is a videogamer and pro wrestling fan, his social-media footprint suggests. His precise political affiliations are still somewhat unclear—he has shared photos of himself wearing a Trump flag at one of the ex-president’s rallies but has also liked posts featuring President Joe Biden.

Much of Crimo’s social media presence includes a symbol that roughly resembles one used by Suomen Sisu, a far-right Finnish organization that “seeks to protect Finnish culture [and] traditions.” (Other Finns have described the group as “Nazi-spirited.”) Crimo, however, does not mention Suomen Sisu by name in his postings. He also served as the administrator of a Discord channel called “SS” that has since been taken down.

On Tuesday, Covelli said investigators are “reviewing” Crimo’s online activities to “see what they reveal.”

Mark Heymann, 22, told The Daily Beast he grew up with Crimo—and that they were in Cub Scouts together in elementary school—but “couldn’t say he knew him too well.”

“He was a year younger than me. I knew who he was and I knew his name,” Heymann said, adding that despite Crimo not being his friend, he knew “something off, something wasn’t right about him.”

“I don’t remember him in any specific friend group in high school, but he was definitely a loner,” he added.

Over the past 24 hours, detectives have spoken with “numerous witnesses,” and have already analyzed “numerous video clips, both from cellphone video recordings and fixed cameras in the area,” according to Covelli.

But authorities have apparently not yet homed in on a motive, with Covelli telling reporters that cops “have no indication to suggest at this point that it was racially motivated, motivated by religion.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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