The man suspected of carrying out the mass shooting that killed at least seven people at a 4th of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, was charged with seven counts of first-degree murder on Tuesday.
Lake County state’s attorney Eric F. Rinehart told reporters that the 21-year-old suspect, Robert E. Crimo III, will likely face “many” additional charges for the “premeditated and calculated attack” that injured dozens of other people who tried to flee the hail of gunfire as the parade got underway. Authorities said more than 70 bullets were fired from a rooftop during the attack.
If convicted of the murder charges, Rinehart said Crimo would face a mandatory sentence of life without parole.
Crimo was arrested Monday evening after an intense search and remains in custody. He has spoken with investigators but no motive for the shooting has been identified, Chris Covelli, a spokesperson for the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, said in a news conference earlier in the day.
At that briefing, Covelli said a family member of Crimo’s called police in September 2019 to report that Crimo had threatened to kill people and that he had a stash of knives, officials said. Covelli said officers removed 16 knives from Crimo’s possession, but added that there was no probable cause for an arrest at the time.
Illinois State Police said in a statement Tuesday that it received a “clear and present danger report” in connection with the incident, which the agency said involved threats he made against his family. But, police said, “no one, including family, was willing to move forward on a complaint nor did they subsequently provide information on threats or mental health that would have allowed law enforcement to take additional action.” As a result, no firearms restraining order was filed against him.
According to state police, Highland Park police returned the knives to his father after he claimed they were stored in Crimo’s closet “for safekeeping.”
Crimo then applied for a Firearm Owners Identification card in December 2019 when he was 19 years old, state police said. His application was sponsored by his father (applicants under the age of 21 need a legal guardian or parent to sponsor them in order to apply).
“Therefore, at the time of FOID application review in January of 2020, there was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger and deny the FOID application,” the agency said.
The suspect’s family has retained a lawyer, who said in a statement on Tuesday that they asked for privacy following the tragedy.
Months earlier, in April 2019, authorities said officers were called because Crimo had attempted suicide. Covelli said officers spoke to Crimo and his parents, and the issue was handed off to mental health professionals. It’s unclear when Crimo bought the firearm used in Monday’s shooting, but police said it was after his knives were confiscated.
Officials said they believe Crimo purchased the “high-powered rifle” legally and “preplanned this attack for several weeks.” The rifle was fired from the roof of a nearby business, which authorities believe the shooter accessed by climbing the ladder of a fire escape.
Following the attack, Covelli said Crimo disguised himself in women’s clothing “to conceal his facial tattoos and his identity and help him during the escape with other people who were fleeing the chaos.” He then walked to his mother’s house, where he borrowed her car. An individual who saw the vehicle called 911, at which point police found and apprehended him.
A YouTube video from the Chicago Sun-Times showed paradegoers running after hearing gunshots erupt in the middle of the event at around 10:14 a.m.
In a Facebook post, Mayor Nancy Rotering called it “the bloodiest day that we have ever experienced in Highland Park” and said flags would be flown at half-mast. The suburb about 25 miles north of Chicago is home to about 30,000 people.
“Our community, like so many before us, is devastated,” Rotering wrote. “It’s impossible to imagine the pain of this kind of tragedy until it happens in your backyard. … A mass shooting such as this casts a much wider net of agony than what the public is typically exposed to; it’s a crisis that devastates entire families and communities in a single moment and we know will take time to heal.”
In an NBC interview Tuesday morning, Rotering said she does not “believe he was previously known to police” but added she personally knew the person of interest as a child, when he was a Cub Scout and she was a troop leader.
“It’s one of those things where you step back and you say, ‘What happened? How did somebody become this angry, this hateful, to then take it out on innocent people who literally were just having a family day out?'” she said.