Video: Joanna Hernandez spent the day in Highland Park hearing from a community in mourning. (Produced by Joanna Hernandez)
The 21-year-old man currently in custody in connection to the mass shooting at Highland Park’s Fourth of July Parade that left seven dead and at least 30 injured has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, officials announced Tuesday evening.
If convicted of those charges, Robert Crimo III faces life in prison without the possibility of parole, said Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart. Crimo will also face “dozens” of more charges to account for each of the 38 victims who were wounded, as well as those who were “psychologically harmed,” Rinehart said.
The massacre was a result of a “carefully executed” plan, Rinehart said.
Rinehart was flanked by U.S. Attorney for the Northern District John Lausch when he announced the murder charges. No federal charges have been brought against Crimo as of Tuesday, with Lausch telling reporters that state murder charges are appropriate at this time.
Crimo allegedly planned the attack for weeks and attempted to blend into the crowd of victims to escape, law enforcement officials said earlier Tuesday.
Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli said Crimo was arrested after an extensive manhunt Monday, allegedly fired more than 70 rounds during the attack and disguised himself in women’s clothing in order to conceal distinctive face and neck tattoos.
“He brought a high-powered rifle to this parade, he accessed the roof of a business via a fire escape ladder and began opening fire on the innocent Independence Day celebration-goers,” Covelli said during a press conference Tuesday morning.
Crimo may have been wearing a wig, Covelli said, but he was eventually identified by police officers who recognized him from a photo. Crimo allegedly used a high-powered rifle “similar to an AR-15” in the shooting, according to Covelli, which appears to have been purchased legally in Illinois.
After the shooting, Crimo “blended in” with the crowd and walked to his mother’s home, where he took her vehicle and drove off, Covelli said, making his way as far as Madison, Wisconsin before returning to Illinois. A community member later recognized that vehicle and contacted 911, Covelli said, which allowed a North Chicago police officer to conduct a traffic stop and place Crimo under arrest.
A second rifle was found inside that vehicle, Covelli said, which also appears to have belonged to Crimo.
Lake County’s coroner on Tuesday afternoon identified the first six victims who were killed in the shooting: 64-year-old Katherine Goldstein of Highland Park; 35-year-old Irina McCarthy of Highland Park; 37-year-old Kevin McCarthy of Highland Park; 63-year-old Jacquelyn Sundheim of Highland Park; 88-year-old Stephen Straus of Highland Park; and 78-year-old Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza of Morelos, Mexico.
The seventh victim has not yet been identified publicly.
Crimo has been speaking to investigators since his arrest, Covelli said, but added there’s no definitive motive at this time. Covelli said the shooting appears to be “completely random” and there’s no evidence currently to suggest the attack was racially or religiously motivated.
According to Covelli, Highland Park police had two previous interactions with Crimo in 2019. One occurred that April after Crimo allegedly attempted suicide. Months later in September, Crimo allegedly threatened family members, saying he was “going to kill everyone.”
Police at that time confiscated from him 16 knives, a dagger and a sword, but no charges were filed against him. Covelli said there was no indication he owned rifles at that time. Those appear to have been purchased in 2020 or 2021.
Crimo was originally said to be 22 years old, but law enforcement clarified Tuesday that he is actually 21.
Police are still establishing a timeline to better understand how Monday’s shooting unfolded and are asking for anyone who believes they have video of Crimo before, during or after the parade to contact law enforcement at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324).
In addition to the seven people who died, at least 30 others were wounded in the Monday morning attack, Covelli said.
An hourslong manhunt during which residents hunkered down in businesses or received police escorts to their homes ended with a traffic stop and brief chase Monday evening, when authorities detained Crimo.
“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.
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 HealthSystem said it treated 39 people at four of its hospitals after the shooting. Nine people, ranging from 14 to 70, remained hospitalized as of Tuesday.
“It is devastating that a celebration of America was ripped apart by our uniquely American plague,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a Monday 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.
President Joe Biden on Monday said he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day.”
In recent days, Biden signed the widest-ranging gun violence bill passed by Congress in decades, a compromise that reflected at once both progress on a long-intractable issue and the deep-seated partisan divide that persists.
Crimo, who goes by the name Bobby, was an aspiring rapper with the stage name Awake the Rapper, posting on social media dozens 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.”
This is an updating story. Check back for more details.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.