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HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (NewsNation) — Robert E Crimo III, the suspect in a mass shooting on an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago that police say acted alone and pre-planned the attack, has been charged with 7 counts of first-degree murder Tuesday.
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart announced the charges during a press conference saying, they are the “first of many charges to be filed.” If convicted the suspect faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Seven victims of the shooting have been confirmed by Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek, who identified six of the deceased as:
- Katherine Goldstein, 64, of Highland Park
- Irina McCarthy, 35, of Highland Park
- Kevin McCarthy, 37, of Highland Park
- Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63, of Highland Park
- Steven Straus, 88, of Highland Park
- Nicolas Toledo, 78, from Mexico
Six people were killed Monday and at least 39 were injured in the gunfire that was initially mistaken for fireworks, according to officials. Authorities confirmed Tuesday afternoon that a seventh person died at a hospital outside of Lake County. The identity of the seventh victim has not been released.
Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli said the suspect used a high-powered rifle “similar to an AR-15,” spraying parade-goers with more than 70 rounds from atop a commercial building in Highland Park, an affluent community of about 30,000 on Chicago’s north shore.
Police say the suspect had planned the attack for several weeks and acted alone.
According to Covelli, the suspect dropped his rifle after the shooting, exited the roof using the fire escape and attempted to blend into the fleeing and frantic crowd.
Covelli said the suspect was disguised “as a woman” to assist in avoiding capture and can be seen in a surveillance photo wearing what appears to be a dress, scarf and possibly makeup.
“A wig is not out of the question,” Covelli said, possibly to hide his distinctive neck and face tattoos.
Authorities said a quick trace of the rifle, as well as witness statements, photos and videos, helped identify the suspect.
An hourslong manhunt during which residents hunkered down in businesses or received police escorts to their homes ended with a traffic stop and brief chase Monday evening, when authorities detained a man they described as a person of interest.
Covelli said a second rifle was found in the suspect’s vehicle. Both of the rifles as well as additional firearms at his residence were purchased legally and from separate locations in the area, according to police.
Authorities have not yet identified a motive for the attack but revealed the suspect had two prior incidents with local law enforcement. In April 2019, an individual contacted Highland Park Police Dept. a week after learning the suspect attempted suicide, according to Covelli.
“There was no law enforcement action to be taken,” Covelli said. “It was a mental health issue.”
If you or someone you know needs help, resources or someone to talk to, you can find it at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website or by calling 1-800-273-8255. People are available to talk to 24×7.
The second incident occurred in Sept 2019, when a family member reported the suspect “said he was going to kill everyone,” Covelli said.
“Police removed 16 knives, a dagger and a sword” from his home, Covelli said.
“At the time, there was no probable cause to arrest,” Covelli added, saying, State Police were notified of the incident.
The parents of the suspect have retained the law office of R. Kelly’s defense attorney.
In a statement posted on Twitter Tuesday evening, Steve Greenberg, who currently represents R. Kelly in his Chicago case, said the Crimo family have retained attorneys Tom Durkin and Josh Herman to represent their son.
In an interview with NewsNation Prime, Greenberg said they were “completely in the dark” about the potential for their son to commit the crimes of which he’s accused.
“It’s just a tragedy all the way around. Imagine waking up one day and knowing that your loved one goes to a parade and gets killed. Imagine waking up one day and knowing that your child may never get out of jail,” Greenberg said.
On Tuesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation for Lake County to assist in recovery efforts.
The disaster proclamation, which remains in effect for 30 days, grants Illinois the ability to expedite the use of state resources, personnel or equipment, according to a release.
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.
“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 he and his family 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.”
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.
Among them was the family of Nicolas Toledo, who was in his late 70s and visiting from Mexico when he was shot. 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.
Dozens of fired bullets sent hundreds of parade-goers — some visibly bloodied — fleeing. They left a trail of abandoned items that showed everyday life suddenly, violently disrupted: a box of chocolate cookies spilled onto the grass; a child’s Chicago Cubs cap; baby strollers, some bearing American flags, and children’s bikes.
“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.
Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said a police officer pulled over Robert E. Crimo III about 5 miles north of the shooting scene, several hours after police released the man’s photo and an image of his silver Honda Fit, and warned the public that he was likely armed and dangerous. Crimo will turn 22 in September and is a resident of Highwood.
Police declined to immediately identify Crimo as a suspect but said identifying him as a person of interest, sharing his name and other information publicly was a serious step.
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. No children died in the attack.
Police have not released many details about the victims, but 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 as a band passed them playing music.
“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 also was shot in the back and taken by someone to nearby hospital because they weren’t sure there would be enough ambulances for all the victims.
Roberto Velasco, Mexico’s director for North American affairs, said on Twitter that two Mexicans were also wounded.
Sundheim had 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’nei Mitzvah Coordinator, “all of this with tireless dedication,” the congregation said in its statement announcing her death.
“Jacki’s work, kindness and warmth touched us all,” the statement said.
Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek said the five people killed at the parade were adults, but didn’t have information on the sixth victim.
NorthShore University Health System hospitals treated a total of 39 patients who arrived by either ambulance or other means after the attack. Nine patients are currently still hospitalized and range in age from 14 to their 70s. Eight of the current patients have suffered gunshot wounds.
“It is devastating that a celebration of America was ripped apart by our uniquely American plague,” Pritzker said at a news conference.
“While we celebrate the Fourth of July just once a year, mass shootings have become a weekly — yes, weekly — American tradition.”
The shooter opened fire around 10:15 a.m., when the parade was about three-quarters through, authorities 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.”
In recent days, Biden signed the widest-ranging gun violence bill passed by Congress in decades, a compromise that showed at once both progress on a long-intractable issue and the deep-seated partisan divide that persists.
Vice President Kamala Harris visited Highland Park on Tuesday evening, reminding the community that the rest of the nation stands with them during in wake of the tragedy. Harris said while there’s a lot of healing that needs to happen, she and President Biden will provide all the resources they can to help.
Crimo, who goes by the name Bobby, was an aspiring rapper with the stage name Awake the Rapper, posting on social media dozens 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.
In another video, in which Crimo appears in a classroom wearing a black bicycle helmet. He says: “Everything has led up to this. Nothing can stop me, even myself.”
Police said they were unaware of the videos and will be looking into them.
Crimo’s father, Bob, a longtime deli owner, ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Highland Park in 2019, calling himself “a person for the people.”
Highland Park is a close-knit community on the shores of Lake Michigan, with mansions and sprawling lakeside estates that have long drawn the rich and sometimes famous, including NBA legend Michael Jordan, who lived in the city for years when he played for the Chicago Bulls. John Hughes filmed parts of several movies in the city, including “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Sixteen Candles” and “Weird Science.”
Gina Troiani and her son were lined up with his daycare class ready to walk onto the parade route when she heard a loud sound that she believed was fireworks — until she heard people yell about a shooter.
“We just start running in the opposite direction,” she told The Associated Press.
Troiani said she pushed her 5-year-old son’s bike, running through the neighborhood to get back to their car.
“It was just sort of chaos,” she said. “There were people that got separated from their families, looking for them. Others just dropped their wagons, grabbed their kids and started running.”
NewsNation affiliate WGN and The Associated Press contributed to this report.