Suspect in July 4 shooting bought guns legally despite threats

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (AP) – The man accused of killing seven people when he fired a hail of bullets from a rooftop in suburban Chicago at an Independence Day parade legally bought the high-powered rifle used in the shooting was, and four other weapons. Despite threats of violence, police said.

Robert E. Crimo III was charged with seven counts of murder Tuesday as hundreds of protesters, parents and children fled in fear, sparking an hours-long manhunt in and around Highland Park, a wealthy community on the shores of Lake Michigan. Investigators have not yet found a motive.

Prosecutors have promised dozens more charges and Crimo is expected to make his first court appearance on Wednesday. His attorney said he intends to plead not guilty to all charges.

A rifle “similar to an AR-15” was used to spray more than 70 rounds from a commercial building into the parade crowd, a spokesman for the Lake County Major Crime Task Force said.

A seventh victim died Tuesday from his injuries. More than three dozen other people were injured in the attack, which task force spokesman Christopher Covelli said the suspect had been planning for several weeks.

The attack came less than three years after police went to Crimo’s home after 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 evidence he was in possession of any weapons at this time in September 2019.

Police also responded to a reported suicide attempt by the suspect in April 2019, Covelli said.

Crimo legally purchased the rifle used in the Illinois attack within the past year, Covelli said. In all, police said, he bought five firearms, which officers seized at his father’s home.

The revelation about his gun purchases is just the latest example of young men who have been able to acquire guns and carry out massacres in recent months despite glaring warning signs about their mental health and propensity to violence.

The Illinois State Police, which issues licenses for gun owners, said Crimo applied for a license in December 2019, when he was 19. His father sponsored his application.

At the time, “there was insufficient basis to determine a clear and present threat” and deny the request, state police said in a statement.

Investigators who questioned the suspect and reviewed his social media posts have not determined a motive or found evidence that he targeted victims based on their race, religion or other protected status, Covelli said.

At the July Fourth parade, gunfire was initially mistaken for fireworks before hundreds of revelers fled in horror. A day later, strollers, lawn chairs and other items left by panicked parade-goers were left in a wide police perimeter. Outside the police tape, some residents pulled up to collect blankets and chairs that had been left behind.

David Shapiro, 47, said the gunfire quickly turned the parade into “chaos”.

“People didn’t immediately know where the shots were coming from, whether the shooter was in front of them or behind them and was chasing them,” he said Tuesday as he fetched a stroller and lawn chairs.

The shooting took place at a point on the parade route where many residents had staked out prime vantage points early in the day.

Among them were Nicolas Toledo, who was visiting his family in Illinois from Mexico, and Jacki Sundheim, a lifelong parishioner and collaborator at the nearby North Shore Congregation of Israel. The Lake County coroner released the names of four other victims.

Nine people, ranging in age from 14 to 70, remained hospitalized Tuesday, hospital officials said.

The shooting was only the latest to shake up the rituals of American life. Schools, churches, grocery stores and now community parades have become killing zones in recent months. This time, the bloodshed came as the nation tried to celebrate its founding and the ties that still bind it together.

The gunman initially evaded capture by disguising himself as a woman and mingling with the fleeing crowd, Covelli said.

A police officer stopped 21-year-old Crimo north of the scene several hours after police released his photo and warned he was likely armed and dangerous, Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said.

When asked about his client’s emotional state, prominent Chicago attorney Thomas A. Durkin said he spoke to Crimo only once — for 10 minutes on the phone. He declined to comment further.

In 2013, Highland Park officials approved a ban on semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines. A local doctor and the Illinois State Rifle Association were quick to question the liberal suburb’s stance. The litigation ended on the doorstep of the US Supreme Court in 2015 when judges declined to hear the case, leaving the suburb’s restrictions in place.

Under Illinois law, persons convicted of a felony, addicted to drugs, or persons capable of harming themselves or others may be denied the purchase of guns. That last stipulation might have deterred a suicidal crimo from getting a gun.

But under the law, “a court, panel, commission or other legal authority” must decide to whom this provision applies.

The state has what it calls a red flag law designed to stop dangerous people before they kill, but it requires family members, relatives, roommates or the police to ask a judge to order gun confiscations.

Crimo, who goes by the name Bobby, was an aspiring rapper with the stage name Awake the Rapper who posted dozens of videos and songs on social media, some of which were menacing and violent.

Federal agents checked Crimo’s online profiles, and a preliminary investigation into his internet history revealed that he had researched mass killings and downloaded several photos depicting acts of violence, including a beheading, a police official said.

The official was unable to publicly discuss details of the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Shapiro, the Highland Park resident who fled the parade with his family, said his 4-year-old son woke up screaming later in the night.

“He’s too young to understand what happened,” Shapiro said. “But he knows something bad has happened.”


Foody reported from Chicago; Groves of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Associated Press writers Don Babwin in Chicago, Mike Householder in Highland Park, Bernard Condon and Mike Balsamo in New York, Aamer Madhani in Washington, Jim Mustian in New Orleans, Barbara Ortutay in San Francisco, and researcher Rhonda Shafner also contributed. Suspect in July 4 shooting bought guns legally despite threats

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