Parade shooting suspect charged with 7 counts of murder

Officials: Suspect blends into crowd wearing women’s clothing after firing 70 rounds, killing 7 at Illinois July 4 parade

Highland Park police have identified 22-year-old Robert 'Bobby' E. Crimo III as a person of interest in the mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade (Copyright 2022 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. – A prosecutor in suburban Chicago says that the gunman accused of attacking an Independence Day parade has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder. Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart promised that dozens more charges would be sought. He added that the suspect, if convicted of murder, would receive a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Police say Robert E. Crimo III fired more than 70 rounds and evaded initial capture by blending into the fleeing crowd, disguising himself in women’s clothing. Crimo was originally identified as a person of interest, but authorities announced the charges filed against him on Tuesday.

The details emerged Tuesday as FBI agents were peeking into trash cans and under picnic blankets during the search for more evidence in Highland Park, an affluent and close-knit community on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The attack killed at least seven people. According to NBC Chicago, Lake County Major Crimes Task Force spokesman Sgt. Christopher Covelli confirmed the death just before 2 p.m.

The assailant’s shots were initially mistaken for fireworks before hundreds of panicked revelers fled in terror. A day later, baby strollers, lawn chairs and other items left behind by panicked parade goers remained inside a wide police perimeter.

TIMELINE OF EVENTS

According to officials at a Tuesday news conference:

  • Crimo pre-planned the attack for several weeks before the parade
  • Climbed atop the roof of a business on day of parade by accessing the fire escape ladder
  • Used high-powered AR-15 assault-style rifle to fire off at least 70 rounds, killing seven, injuring more than 30 others
  • Left rifle and, dressed in women’s clothing, blended in with the fleeing crowd
  • Walked to his mother’s home, which is in the neighborhood
  • Borrowed her car and fled the area
  • Citizen spotted the suspect’s vehicle, called 911
  • Officer pulled Crimo over after a brief chase
  • Crimo taken into custody
  • Another rifle was found inside the vehicle
  • Both firearms were legally purchased by Crimo at a local dealer

Authorities offered no motive for the attack.

The July 4 shooting was just the latest to shatter the rituals of American life. Schools, churches, grocery stores and now community parades have all become killing grounds in recent months. This time, the bloodshed came as the nation tried to find cause to celebrate its founding and the bonds that still hold it together.

“It definitely hits a lot harder when it’s not only your hometown but it’s also right in front of you,” resident Ron Tuazon said as he and a friend returned to the parade route Monday evening to retrieve chairs, blankets and a child’s bike that he and his family abandoned when the shooting began.

“It’s commonplace now,” Tuazon said. “We don’t blink anymore. Until laws change, it’s going to be more of the same.”

The shooting occurred at a spot on the parade route where many residents had staked out prime viewing points early in the day for the annual celebration.

Among them was Nicolas Toledo, who was visiting his family in Illinois from Mexico. He was shot and died at the scene, his granddaughter, Xochil Toledo, told the Chicago Sun-Times. Also killed was Jacki Sundheim, a lifelong congregant and “beloved” staff member at nearby North Shore Congregation Israel, which announced her death on its website.

Dozens of fired bullets sent hundreds of parade-goers — some visibly bloodied — fleeing. They left a trail of abandoned items that showed everyday life suddenly, violently disrupted: a box of chocolate cookies spilled onto the grass; a child’s Chicago Cubs cap; baby strollers, some bearing American flags.

“There’s no safe place,” said Highland Park resident Barbara Harte, 73, who had stayed away from the parade fearing a mass shooting, but later ventured from her home.

Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said a police officer pulled over Crimo about 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of the shooting scene, several hours after police released the man’s photo and warned that he was likely armed and dangerous.

Authorities initially said Crimo, whose father once ran for mayor of Highland Park, was 22, but an FBI bulletin and Crimo’s social media said he was 21.

Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek said the five people killed at the parade were adults, but didn’t have information on the sixth or the seventh.

Police have not released details about the victims, but Toledo’s granddaughter told the Sun-Times that Toledo had spent most of his life in Morelos, Mexico. Xochil Toledo said she remembers looking over at her grandfather, who was in his late 70s, as a band passed them.

“He was so happy,” she said. “Happy to be living in the moment.”

Xochil Toledo said her father tried to shield her grandfather and was shot in the arm; her boyfriend also was shot in the back and taken by someone to nearby hospital because they weren’t sure there would be enough ambulances for all the victims.

Roberto Velasco, Mexico’s director for North American affairs, said on Twitter that two Mexicans were also wounded.

Sundheim had spent decades on the staff at North Shore Congregation Israel, early on teaching at the congregation’s preschool and later serving as Events and B’nei Mitzvah Coordinator, “all of this with tireless dedication,” the congregation said in its statement announcing her death.

“Jacki’s work, kindness and warmth touched us all,” the statement said.

NorthShore University Health Center received 26 patients after the attack. All but one had gunshot wounds, said Dr. Brigham Temple, medical director of emergency preparedness. Their ages ranged from 8 to 85, and Temple estimated that four or five were children.

“It is devastating that a celebration of America was ripped apart by our uniquely American plague,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a news conference.

“While we celebrate the Fourth of July just once a year, mass shootings have become a weekly — yes, weekly — American tradition.”

Since the start of the year, there have been 15 shootings where four or more people have been killed, including the Highland Park one, according to The Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University mass killing database.

Highland Park Police Commander Chris O’Neill said the gunman apparently used a “high-powered rifle” to fire from a spot atop a commercial building where he was “very difficult to see.” He said the rifle was recovered at the scene. Police also found a ladder attached to the building.

The task force spokesman, Christopher Covelli, said that Crimo legally purchased the gun in Illinois within the past year.

Crimo, who goes by the name Bobby, was an aspiring rapper with the stage name “Awake the Rapper,” posting on social media dozens of videos and songs, some ominous and violent.

In one animated video since taken down by YouTube, Crimo raps about armies “walking in darkness” as a drawing appears of a man pointing a rifle, a body on the ground and another figure with hands up in the distance.

Crimo’s father, Bob, a longtime deli owner, ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Highland Park in 2019, calling himself “a person for the people.”

The community of about 30,000 on Chicago’s north shore has mansions and sprawling lakeside estates and was once home to NBA legend Michael Jordan.

Gina Troiani and her 5-year-old son were lined up with his daycare class ready to walk onto the parade route when she heard a loud sound that she believed was fireworks — until she heard people yell about a shooter.

“We just start running in the opposite direction,” she told The Associated Press. “There were people that got separated from their families, looking for them. Others just dropped their wagons, grabbed their kids and started running.”

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About the Authors:

Mother of two. Award-winning lover of digital storytelling, sparked by my fascination of being a fashionable gossip like my favorite "Willona Woods" character from "Good Times." On the serious side, president of the Houston Association of Black Journalists and dedicated community servant. Happy to share the news with you each and every day!