HIGHLAND PARK, Ill., July 5 (Reuters) – The man accused of opening fire during a July 4 parade near Chicago was charged with seven counts of murder on Tuesday, as police revealed that she had flagged him as posing a “clear and present danger”. after alleged threats against his family in 2019.
Robert E. Crimo III, 21, is suspected of shooting his victims from a sniper’s perch on a rooftop above the parade in the suburb of Highland Park, Illinois.
He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted, Illinois State Attorney Eric Reinhart said.
Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reinhart said the first-degree murder charges would be followed by “dozens of other charges” and he would ask Crimo to be held in custody without bail during the suspect’s first court appearance, scheduled for Wednesday.
It was not immediately clear whether Crimo had an attorney.
Crimo had been planning the attack for weeks, officials said Tuesday.
They said he fired more than 70 random shots into the crowd watching Monday’s parade and was dressed in women’s clothing to conceal his identity and blend in with the panicked crowd as he marched ran away.
“He blended in with everyone as they ran around, almost like he was an innocent bystander as well,” said Sgt. Chris Covelli, spokesman for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, adding that the suspect had distinctive facial tattoos.
In addition to the seven gunshot victims, more than three dozen people were treated in hospitals for gunshot wounds and other injuries. Read more
Covelli said Crimo has already had two contacts with law enforcement – an emergency 911 call in April 2019 reporting he had attempted suicide and another in September of that year regarding alleged threats. “to kill everyone” that he had directed against members of his family.
Police responding to the second incident seized a collection of 16 knives, a dagger and a sword hoarded by Crimo from his home, although no arrests were made as authorities at the time had no probable cause to take him into custody, Covelli said.
“No complaint has been signed by any of the victims,” Covelli said.
But a state “red flag” system, designed to allow police to seek a court order to seize weapons from people deemed to pose a danger to themselves or others, appears to have failed.
Among those killed in Monday’s attack were Nicholas Toledo, a Mexican grandfather in his 60s celebrating with his family among the flag-waving crowds, and Jacki Sundheim, a teacher at a nearby synagogue.
The shooting took place in a neighborhood with a large Jewish population, but police had no immediate evidence of an anti-Semitic or racist base. Investigators were reviewing videos Crimo had posted on social media that contained violent imagery.
The suspect used a high-powered rifle for the attack, similar to an AR-15, which he dropped at the scene.
He had a similar gun in his mother’s car, which he was driving when police arrested him, and owned other firearms, all of which were purchased legally in Illinois, officials said.
In all, Crimo had purchased five firearms, including rifles and pistols.
‘ALWAYS UNDER THE WAY’
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said the community of 30,000 was in shock.
“This tragedy should never have come to our doorstep,” she told NBC News. “As a small town, everyone knows someone who was directly affected by this and, of course, we’re all still in shock.”
President Joe Biden has ordered American flags to be flown at half-mast in mourning until sunset Saturday.
A recent string of deadly mass shootings, including an attack in which 19 schoolchildren and two teachers were killed in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, just 10 days after 10 people were killed at a supermarket in a predominantly black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, has renewed the debate about gun safety in America.
Last month, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional right to bear arms in public in a ruling that made it easier for pro-gun groups to overturn modern gun regulations. He has since rejected a lower court ruling upholding Maryland’s ban on assault weapons.
Last month, Congress passed its first major federal gun reform in three decades, providing federal funding to states that administer “red flag” laws.
The law does not prohibit the sale of assault rifles or high-capacity magazines, but does take some steps toward background checks by allowing access to information about significant crimes committed by minors. Read more
Rotering, the mayor of Highland Park, said she knew the suspect when he was a little boy and a Cub and she was a Cub leader.
” What happened ? How did someone get so angry, so hateful? she says. “Our nation needs to have a conversation about these weekly events involving the killing of dozens of people with legally obtained weapons.”
The suspect’s father, Bob Crimo, ran Bob’s Pantry and Deli in Highland Park for at least 18 years, according to a Chicago Tribune business profile. Bob Crimo shut down the deli in 2019 before running unsuccessfully against Rotering for mayor.
Online social media posts written by the suspect or under his rapper handle, “Awake The Rapper”, often depicted violent images or messages.
A music video posted to YouTube under Awake The Rapper showed drawings of a stick figure holding a gun in front of another character lying on the ground.
Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Brendan O’Brien and Tom Polansek; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh, Jonathan Allen, Tyler Clifford, Christopher Gallagher, Christopher Walljasper and Doina Chiacu; Written by Jonathan Allen and Steve Gorman; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Bill Berkrot
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.