(Trends Wide) — The attacker in the Fourth of July parade massacre in Highland Park, Illinois has admitted carrying out the attack that killed seven people and injured dozens more, prosecutors said in court Wednesday.
Robert E. Crimo III, 21, told authorities in a voluntary statement that he “looked through the peephole, aimed and opened fire” on bystanders, emptying two 30-round magazines before loading his gun with a third and firing. again, Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Ben Dillon said during a virtual bond hearing.
A judge ordered Crimo, who appeared at the hearing dressed in black, to be held without bail on seven counts of first-degree murder. A conviction would result in a sentence of life in prison without parole, but more charges could be filed in the future, Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said.
“For every individual that was injured, people can expect an attempted murder charge as well as an aggravated assault charge with a firearm,” Rinehart said at a news conference after the hearing. He added: “Every time you fire a bullet at a person, you are committing a crime of aggravated discharge of a weapon, whether you hit someone or not. There will be many more charges in the coming weeks.”
Crimo has been appointed a public defender and is due to appear in court again on July 28.
According to authorities, the shooter opened fire from the roof of a Highland Park business as the parade was underway shortly after 10 a.m. CT Monday.
Crimo dressed in women’s clothing to hide his identity and used makeup to cover his tattoos, investigators believe. She left the roof and blended in with the fleeing crowd, Lake County Serious Crimes Task Force spokesman Chris Covelli said previously.
Five people who were shot at the parade were pronounced dead at the scene, according to authorities, and two people hospitalized succumbed to their injuries. A total of 39 patients were taken to medical facilities “by ambulance or other means,” according to Jim Anthony of NorthShore University Health System, and two patients remained hospitalized as of Wednesday afternoon.
Surveillance video from the scene showed a person running west with a black bag over his shoulder immediately after the shooting, Dillon said Wednesday, describing the July 4 events. As the individual was running, a cloth-wrapped object fell to the pavement. Subject dropped object and continued to run.
When recovered, authorities identified the object as a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle, Dillon said. There was a cartridge in the chamber, but no magazine was inserted.
On the rooftop, investigators recovered the three 30-round magazines and 83 shell casings, Dillon said.
The shooter ‘seriously contemplated’ committing a second shooting
Authorities believe Crimo had been planning the attack for weeks, and the rifle he used and another he allegedly had when he was detained by police appear to have been purchased legally in Illinois, Covelli said. Other weapons were recovered from his home in the nearby town of Highwood.
There could have been an even worse carnage: According to a police spokesman, Crimo drove to Madison, Wisconsin, on Monday after the Illinois shooting and contemplated a second attack.
Crimo saw “a celebration going on … and seriously contemplated using the firearm he had in his vehicle to commit another shooting in Madison,” Covelli told reporters after Wednesday’s arraignment, identifying the weapon as a Kel-Tec SUB200. Crimo had about 60 rounds of ammunition in his car at the time, Covelli said.
“We have no information to suggest that he planned to drive to Madison initially to commit another attack. (But) we do believe he was driving after the first attack and saw the celebration,” Covelli said.
“The indications are that he hadn’t thought or done enough research,” Covelli said.
Covelli again declined to address the suspect’s motive, telling reporters he did not want to go into specific detail about what Crimo told investigators.
“However, he had some kind of affinity towards the numbers 4 and 7, and the reverse was 7/4,” Covelli said, referring to the Monday, July 4, date. According to Covelli, Crimo’s affinity “comes from the music that interests him”.
Authorities don’t have any information to suggest Monday’s shooting was “racially, religiously motivated or otherwise protected,” Covelli said.
The shooter had previous contact with the police.
As another community reels from a shocking mass shooting, the city’s mayor wonders how the shooter was able to buy guns given his previous run-ins with law enforcement.
However, information published by state and local police shows that the attacker previously required the intervention of agents due to threats of violence and mental health problems.
Crimo had two run-ins with police in 2019 out of fear for his safety and the safety of others, information that led Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering to question how Crimo was able to obtain firearms legally.
The Highland Park Police Department received a report in April 2019 that Crimo had previously attempted suicide, Covelli said Tuesday. Police spoke with Crimo and her parents and the matter was handled by mental health professionals, she said.
In September of that year, a relative reported that Crimo threatened family members to “kill everyone” and had a collection of knives, Covelli said. Police removed 16 knives, a dagger and a sword from his house.
Highland Park police filed a “clear and present danger” report on the visit with Illinois State Police, the state agency said. Family members were unwilling to file any further complaints, state police said in a news release Tuesday.
The knives seized by Highland Park police were returned the same day after Crimo’s father claimed they were his, state police said.
Over the next two years, Crimo legally purchased five weapons, according to Covelli, including rifles, pistols and possibly a shotgun. State police confirmed Tuesday that Crimo passed four background checks between June 2020 and September 2021 when purchasing firearms, which included checks from the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
To buy guns in Illinois, people need a Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) card. Crimo was under 21, so he was sponsored by his father, state police said. Crimo’s request was not denied because there was “not a sufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger” at the time.
The only offense listed on Crimo’s record was a violation of the January 2016 ordinance for possession of tobacco, police said, which occurred when he was a minor.
Mayor Rotering, who said she met the shooter as a boy in a Cub Scout ‘pack’ she had led, said she is “waiting for an explanation” of how Crimo was able to obtain weapons, saying Highland Park police had filed the necessary reports.
“We know that in other countries people suffer from mental illness, they suffer from anger, maybe they play violent video games, but they can’t get their hands on these weapons of war and they can’t bring this kind of carnage into their cities. This has to stop,” the mayor told Trends Wide’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday, noting that the state has warning or “red flag” laws, but adding that people need to speak up if they see warning signs.
Authorities identify 7 victims
Authorities on Tuesday identified six of the seven victims who died in the shooting, and a seventh was identified on Wednesday:
- Katherine Goldstein, 64, of Highland Park
- Irina McCarthy, 35, of Highland Park
- Kevin McCarthy, 37, of Highland Park
- Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63, of Highland Park
- Stephen Straus, 88, of Highland Park
- Nicolás Toledo-Zaragoza, 78, from Morelos, Mexico
- Eduardo Uvaldo, 69, of Waukegan, Illinois
Irina and Kevin McCarthy were with their 2-year-old son, Aiden, who was found alive and brought to safety, his family told Trends Wide.
Aiden survived because his father protected him with his body, his grandfather, Michael Levberg, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Aiden was taken to a police station and Levberg picked him up, the grandfather told the Chicago Tribune.
“When I picked him up, he said, ‘Are mommy and daddy coming soon?’ Levberg said Tuesday, according to the Tribune. “Do not understand”.
— Taylor Romine, Rebekah Riess, Joe Sutton, Adrienne Broaddus, Sara Smart, Sharif Paget, Laura Klairmont, Ashley Killough, Jason Kravarik, Alisha Ebrahimji, Amir Vera, Steve Almasy, Jason Hanna, Eric Levenson, Helen Regan y Vanessa Price contribuyeron con este reportaje.