Highland Park shooting suspect charged with murder as police reveal past threat against family

The man alleged to have fatally shot seven people and wounded more than 30 others at an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago managed to legally obtain five guns – including the murder weapon – after a suicide attempt and a threat to “kill everyone” in 2019, authorities revealed on Tuesday.

The new details came as Robert Crimo III, 21, was charged with seven counts of first-degree murder over the deadly massacre. Announcing the charges in an evening press conference on Tuesday, the Lake County state’s attorney, Eric Rinehart, said that the community of Highland Park would “never be the same” and promised the charges were just “the first of many”.

If convicted, Crimo would face a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, Rinehart added.

Police have revealed new details about the attack, including the fact that the suspect was previously known to police after he made threats against his own family. Investigators said at a Tuesday press conference that they had first encountered Crimo when he tried to take his own life in April 2019, prompting a call to authorities who treated the case as a mental health emergency.

Then, in September of that year, a relative of Crimo called police and reported that in his family home he had threatened “to kill everyone”, said Chris Covelli, the leader of a police taskforce investigating major crimes in Lake county, which includes Highland Park. That report prompted police to remove 16 knives, a dagger and a sword from his home.

Even though Highland Park’s municipal government banned assault-style guns within city limits in 2013, Covelli said Crimo managed to legally obtain two rifles – including one styled after an AR-15 – and at least three other guns in the general Chicago area, many parts of which do not enforce such restrictions.

He had apparently planned the attack on the Fourth of July parade for weeks and allegedly posted dozens of videos with ominous songs showing images of himself or cartoon figures holding rifles with threatening messages, including one reading: “Everything has led up to this. Nothing can stop me, even myself.”

About 10.15am Monday, when Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade was about three-quarters through, he aimed the AR-15-like rifle at strangers, fired more than 70 times, and struck roughly 45 people, Covelli said.

Crimo – who opened fire sniper-style after using a ladder to climb atop a building near the parade route – allegedly disguised himself in “women’s clothing” and fled the scene by blending in among the panicked crowd. Police – who said they recovered the murder weapon at the scene – pulled Crimo over about five miles north of the parade route Monday after obtaining surveillance video footage of him and his car, according to Covelli.

He surrendered and was arrested. Crimo was still in custody late Tuesday afternoon.

Attempts to contact Crimo’s father, once a Highland Park mayoral candidate, were unsuccessful Tuesday. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had an attorney representing him.

Meanwhile, details are continuing to emerge about the victims of the attack, with six of the seven killed now identified – all between the ages of 35 and 88.

Five of those six were from Highland Park: Irina McCarthy, 35; Kevin McCarthy, 37; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63; Katherine Goldstein, 64; and Stephen Straus, 88. Nicholas Toledo Zaragoza, 78, was from Mexico’s state of Morelos.

A local news outlet reported that a toddler found wandering alone after the shooting was the son of Irina and Kevin McCarthy, who were both killed.

A seventh person wounded at the parade died on Tuesday after being taken outside a hospital in Lake County, officials said, and that person’s identity wasn’t immediately released.

The shooting comes barely a week after Joe Biden signed into law a bipartisan gun bill intended to prevent dangerous people from accessing firearms.

Biden’s vice-president, Kamala Harris, was headed to Highland Park on Tuesday evening to make remarks about the previous day’s killing.

The fact that Crimo legally purchased so many weapons despite seemingly glaring warning signs that he could be a danger to others has reignited the nationwide debate about whether the US is doing everything it can to rein in access to high-capacity guns.

Authorities have said that, as of Tuesday, they had not found any evidence that Crimo targeted any of the slain or wounded because of their race, religion or other federally protected statuses. Therefore, Covelli said, officials were not currently treating the attack as a possible hate crime.

Highland Park is a tight-knit, generally affluent bedroom community of about 30,000 people.

Not only was it once home to the Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan, it is also where the movie director John Hughes filmed his 1980s classics Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles and Weird Science.

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