A gunman on a rooftop opened fire on an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago on Monday, killing at least six people, wounding at least 30 and sending hundreds of marchers, parents with strollers and children on bicycles fleeing in terror, police said. The suspect remained on the loose hours later as authorities scoured the area.
Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said Monday afternoon that police have identified 22-year-old Robert E Crimo III as a person of interest and cautioned he should be considered armed and dangerous.
Police declined to answer questions about how they identified Crimo. Authorities described his car as a silver Honda Fit with an Illinois license plate DM 80653.
The July 4 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.
Mayor Nancy Rotering said the violence “has shaken us to our core,” adding, "On a day that we came together to celebrate community and freedom, we are instead mourning the tragic loss of life and struggling with the terror that was brought upon us.”
The shooting occurred at a spot on the parade route where many residents had staked out prime viewing points early in the day for the annual celebration. Dozens of fired bullets sent hundreds of parade-goers — some visibly bloodied — fleeing.
“There's no safe place,” said Highland Park resident Barbara Harte, 73, who had stayed away from the parade fearing a mass shooting, but later ventured from her home.
Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli said at a news conference “several of the deceased victims” died at the scene and one was taken to a hospital and died there. Police have not released details about the victims or wounded.
Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek said the five people killed at the parade were adults and she doesn't have information on the sixth victim who was taken to a hospital and died there.
Roberto Velasco, Mexico's director for North American affairs, said on Twitter Monday that one Mexican national was killed in Highland Park and added that two other Mexicans were wounded.
Dr Brigham Temple, medical director of emergency preparedness for NorthShore University Health Center, said the Highland Park hospital received 26 patients after the attack and all but one had gunshot wounds. Their ages ranged from 8 to 85, and Temple estimated that four or five patients were children.
He said 19 of them were treated and discharged. Others were transferred to other hospitals, while two patients, in stable condition, remained at the Highland Park hospital.
The shooter opened fire around 10.15 am, when the parade was about three-quarters through, authorities said.
Highland Park Police Commander Chris O'Neill, the incident commander on scene, said the gunman apparently used a “high-powered rifle” to fire from a spot atop a commercial building where he was “very difficult to see.” He said the rifle was recovered at the scene. Police also found a ladder attached to the building.
“Very random, very intentional and a very sad day,” Covelli said.
President Joe Biden on Monday said he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day.” He said he had “surged Federal law enforcement to assist in the urgent search for the shooter, who remains at large at this time.”
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were conducting an urgent trace of the rifle, agency spokesperson April Langwell said. Federal agents conduct such traces to identify when, where and to whom the gun was last sold.
Police believe there was only one shooter but warned that he should still be considered armed and dangerous. Several nearby cities cancelled events including parades and fireworks, some of them noting that the Highland Park shooter was still at large. Evanston, Deerfield, Skokie, Waukegan and Glencoe cancelled events. The Chicago White Sox also announced on Twitter that a planned post-game fireworks show is cancelled due to the shooting.
“You have a tragic mass act of violence that was random here today at a community event where people were gathered to celebrate, and the offender has not been apprehended thus far,” Covelli, the crime task force spokesman, said. “So, could this happen again? We don't know what his intentions are at this point, so certainly we're not sure of that.”
More than 100 law enforcement officers were called to the parade scene or dispatched to find the suspected shooter.
Hours after the shooting, law enforcement officers searched an office building near where the shooting occurred. Nearby, armed FBI agents in camouflage had also escorted a family with two small girls across Central Avenue. The children looked visibly frightened even as their mother attempted to reassure them that the agents leading and flanking them would protect them.
“Don't worry, you're safe now,” she told them. “These guys will protect you.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement: “There are no words for the kind of monster who lies in wait and fires into a crowd of families with children celebrating a holiday with their community.”