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Parade shooting suspect charged with 7 counts of murder

·7 min read
A man removes two children's scooters one day after a mass shooting in downtown Highland Park, Ill., Tuesday, July 5, 2022. A shooter fired on an Independence Day parade from a rooftop spraying the crowd with gunshots initially mistaken for fireworks before hundreds of panicked revelers of all ages fled in terror. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
A man carries two children's scooters away from downtown Highland Park, Ill., on Tuesday, the day after a mass shooting. (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

The man charged Tuesday with seven counts of murder in the mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in a Chicago suburb legally bought five weapons, including two high-powered rifles, despite authorities being called to his home twice in 2019 for threats of violence and suicide, police said.

Lake County State’s Atty. Eric Rinehart promised that dozens more charges would be sought against the suspect, Robert E. Crimo III. If convicted of the first-degree murder charges, Crimo would receive a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

A spokesman for the Lake County Major Crime Task Force said at a news conference that the suspect, who was arrested late Monday, used a high-powered rifle “similar to an AR-15" to spray more than 70 rounds from atop a commercial building into a crowd that had gathered for the parade in Highland Park, an affluent community of about 30,000 on the Lake Michigan shore.

Police said they were called to Crimo's home in September 2019 after a family member called to say he was threatening “to kill everyone” there. Task force spokesman Christopher Covelli said police confiscated 16 knives, a dagger and a sword, but said there was no sign he had any guns at the time.

The suspect legally purchased the rifle used in the attack in Illinois within the last year, Covelli said. In all, police said, he purchased five firearms, which were recovered by officers at his father’s home.

Police in April 2019 also responded to a reported suicide attempt by the suspect, Covelli said.

Illinois State Police, which issues gun licenses, said Crimo applied for a license in December 2019, when he was 19. His father sponsored his application.

At the time, “there was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger” and deny the application, the state police said in a statement.

On Tuesday, authorities reported the death of a seventh person in the shooting. More than three dozen other people were wounded in the attack, which Covelli said the suspect had planned for several weeks.

Investigators who have interrogated the suspect and reviewed his social media posts have not determined a motive or found any indication that he targeted anyone by race, religion or other protected status, Covelli said.

Earlier in the day, FBI agents peeked into trash cans and under picnic blankets as they searched for more evidence at the site where the assailant opened fire.

The shots were initially mistaken for fireworks before hundreds of revelers fled in terror.

A day later, baby strollers, lawn chairs and other items left behind by paradegoers remained inside a wide police perimeter. Outside the police tape, some residents drove up to collect blankets and chairs they abandoned.

David Shapiro, 47, said the spray of gunfire quickly turned the parade into chaos.

“People didn’t know right away where the gunfire was coming from, whether the gunman was in front or behind you chasing you,” he said as he retrieved a stroller and lawn chairs.

A couple looks toward the scene of the mass shooting
Brooke and Matt Strauss, who were married Sunday, went to the scene of the shooting on Tuesday and left their wedding bouquets. (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

The Fourth of July shooting was just the latest to shatter the rituals of American life. Schools, churches, grocery stores and now community parades have all become killing grounds in recent months. This time, the bloodshed came as the nation tried to find cause to celebrate its founding and the bonds that still hold it together.

“It definitely hits a lot harder when it’s not only your hometown but it’s also right in front of you,” resident Ron Tuazon said as he and a friend returned to the parade route Monday evening to retrieve chairs, blankets and a child’s bike abandoned when the shooting began.

“It’s commonplace now,” Tuazon said. “We don’t blink anymore. Until laws change, it’s going to be more of the same.”

Crimo was pulled over by police north of the shooting scene several hours after authorities released his photo and warned that he was probably armed and dangerous, Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said.

Law enforcement officials gave his age as 21 or 22. His father, Bob, a longtime deli owner, ran for mayor in 2019.

After evading initial capture by dressing as a woman and blending into the fleeing crowd, Crimo drove to the Madison, Wis., area, then returned to Illinois, Covelli said.

Crimo’s attorney, Thomas A. Durkin, a prominent Chicago-based lawyer, said that he intends to enter a not guilty plea to all charges.

Asked about his client’s emotional state, Durkin said he has spoken to Crimo only once, for 10 minutes by phone. He declined to comment further.

Steve Greenberg, the lawyer for the Crimo's parents, told the Associated Press on Tuesday evening that they were not concerned about being charged with anything related to their son’s case.

“There is zero chance they will be charged with anything criminal,” he said. “They didn’t do anything wrong. They are as stunned and shocked as anyone."

The shooting occurred at a spot on the parade route where many residents had staked out prime viewing points.

Among them was Nicolas Toledo, who was visiting his family in Illinois from Mexico. He died at the scene, his granddaughter, Xochil Toledo, told the Chicago Sun-Times. Also killed was Jacki Sundheim, a lifelong congregant and “beloved” staff member at nearby North Shore Congregation Israel, which announced her death on its website.

Toledo’s granddaughter told the Sun-Times that Toledo had spent most of his life in Morelos, Mexico. Xochil Toledo recalled looking over at her grandfather, who was in his late 70s, as a band passed them during the parade.

The FBI's evidence response team remove personal belongings
The FBI's evidence response team remove personal belongings one day after a mass shooting in downtown Highland Park, Ill. (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

“He was so happy,” she said. “Happy to be living in the moment.”

Xochil Toledo said her father tried to shield her grandfather and was shot in the arm; her boyfriend was shot in the back and driven to a hospital.

Sundheim spent decades on the staff at North Shore Congregation Israel, early on teaching at the congregation’s preschool and later serving as events and b'nai mitzvah coordinator, “all of this with tireless dedication,” the congregation said in the announcement.

“Jacki’s work, kindness and warmth touched us all,” it said.

The Lake County coroner has released the names of four other victims: 64-year-old Katherine Goldstein, 35-year-old Irina McCarthy, 37-year-old Kevin McCarthy and 88-year-old Stephen Straus.

Nine people, ages 14 to 70, remained hospitalized Tuesday, officials said.

Since the start of the year, there have been 15 shootings in which four or more people have been killed, including the one at Highland Park, according to an Associated Press/USA Today/Northeastern University database.

Scores of smaller-scale shootings in nearby Chicago also left eight people dead and 60 others wounded over the Fourth of July weekend.

In 2013, Highland Park officials approved a ban on semiautomatic weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines. A local doctor and the Illinois State Rifle Assn. challenged the liberal suburb’s stance. The legal fight ended when the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 declined to hear the case and let the restrictions remain in place.

Crimo, who goes by the name Bobby, was described as an aspiring rapper with the stage name Awake the Rapper, posting on social media dozens of videos and songs, some ominous and violent.

In one animated video since taken down by YouTube, Crimo raps about armies “walking in darkness” as a drawing appears of a man pointing a rifle, a body on the ground and another figure with hands up in the distance.

Federal agents were reviewing Crimo’s online profiles, and a preliminary examination of his internet history indicated that he had researched mass killings and had downloaded multiple photos depicting violent acts, including a beheading, a law enforcement official said.

An FBI worker carries an American flag
A member of the FBI's evidence response team removes an American flag one day after a mass shooting in downtown Highland Park, Ill. (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

The official could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Shapiro, the Highland Park resident who fled the parade with his family, said his 2-year-old son woke up screaming Monday night.

“He is too young to understand what happened. But he knows something bad happened,” Shapiro said. “That’s chilling.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.