A prosecutor in suburban Chicago said Tuesday that the gunman accused of attacking an Independence Day parade has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder.
Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart promised that dozens more charges would be sought. He added that the suspect, if convicted of murder, would receive a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
The gunman who attacked an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago, killing at least seven people, legally bought two high-powered rifles and three other weapons despite authorities being called to his home twice in 2019 after he threatened suicide and violence, police said Tuesday.
A spokesman for the Lake County Major Crime Task Force told a news conference that the suspected shooter, Robert E Crimo III, 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 the suspect'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 past 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.
It was not clear whether Crimo's past contacts with police would have barred him from obtaining an Illinois gun owner's license. State police, who issue the licenses, did not immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press inquiring about his eligibility.
The day after the shooting, authorities reported the death of a seventh person. 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 for the attack or found any indication that he targeted victims by race, religion or other protected status, Covelli said.
Authorities have not filed criminal charges.
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 panicked parade goers 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 Tuesday as he retrieved a stroller and lawn chairs.
The 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 that his family abandoned when the shooting began.
“It's commonplace now,” Tuazon said. “We don't blink any more. Until laws change, it's going to be more of the same.”
A police officer pulled over Robert E Crimo III north of the shooting scene several hours after police released his photo and warned that he was likely 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, Wisconsin, area, then returned to Illinois, Covelli said.
The shooting occurred at a spot on the parade route where many residents had staked out prime viewing points early in the day.
Among them was Nicolas Toledo, who was visiting his family in Illinois from Mexico. He was shot and 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 said she remembers looking over at her grandfather, who was in his late 70s, as a band passed them.
“He was so happy,” she said. “Happy to be living in the moment.”