A man charged Tuesday with seven counts of murder after firing more than 70 rounds at an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago legally purchased five guns, including the high-powered rifle used in the shooting, even though authorities called his home twice in 2019 for threats of violence and suicide, police said.
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said the suspect, if convicted of first-degree murder charges, would receive a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. He promised dozens more charges would be pursued.
A Lake County Major Crimes Task Force spokesman said the suspected shooter, who was arrested Monday night, used a rifle “similar to an AR-15” to fire more than 70 rounds from the top of a commercial building to a crowd that had gathered for the parade in Highland Park, a thriving community of about 30,000 on the shores of Lake Michigan.
A seventh victim died of his injuries on Tuesday. More than three dozen people were injured in the attack, which task force spokesman Christopher Covelli said the suspect had been planning for several weeks.
The assault occurred less than three years after police went to the suspect’s home following a call from a family member who said he was threatening to “kill everyone” there. Covelli said police seized 16 knives, a dagger and a sword, but said there was no sign he had any weapons at the time, in September 2019.
In April 2019, police also responded to a reported suicide attempt by the suspect, Covelli said.
The suspect legally purchased the rifle used in the attack in Illinois last year, Covelli said. In all, police said, he bought five firearms, which were recovered by officers at his father’s home.
The revelation about his gun purchases is just the latest example of young men who were able to obtain weapons and carry out massacres in recent months despite glaring warning signs about their mental health and proclivity for violence.
The Illinois State Police, which issues gun owners’ licenses, said the gunman applied for a license in December 2019, when he was 19 years old. His father sponsored his application.
At the time, “there was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger” and deny the request, state police said in a statement.
Investigators who questioned the suspect and reviewed his social media posts did not determine a motive or find any indication that he targeted victims based on race, religion or other protected status, Covelli said.
Earlier in the day, FBI agents looked inside dumpsters and under picnic blankets as they searched the scene for more evidence. The shots were initially mistaken for fireworks before hundreds of people fled in terror.
A day later, baby strollers, lawn chairs and other items left behind by panicked parade-goers remained within a wide police perimeter. Outside the police tape, some neighbors came to collect blankets and chairs that had been abandoned.
David Shapiro, 47, said the gunshots quickly turned the parade into “chaos.”
“People didn’t immediately know where the shots were coming from, if the gunman was in front of you or behind you chasing you,” he said Tuesday as he retrieved a stroller and lawn chairs.
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