Parade shooting suspect buys 5 guns despite threats

HIGHLAND PARK, IL — The man accused Tuesday of opening fire at an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago had legally purchased five guns, including two high-powered rifles, even though authorities were called to his home twice in 2019 for threats against violence and suicide, police said.

Lake County Prosecutor Eric Rinehart said the suspect, if convicted of the seven counts of first-degree murder, would face a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. He promised dozens more charges would be filed.

A spokesman for the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force said the suspected shooter, who was arrested late Monday, used an “AR-15-like” rifle to fire more than 70 rounds from the top of a commercial building into a crowd. which has gathered for the parade in Highland Park, an affluent community of about 30,000 people on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The attack came less than three years after police went to the suspect’s home after a call from a family member who said he was threatening to “kill everyone” there. Taskforce spokesman Christopher Covelli said police had seized 16 knives, a dagger and a sword, but said there was no indication he had a weapon at the time, in September 2019.


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

The suspect legally purchased the rifle used in the Illinois attack last year, Covelli said. Police said he purchased a total of five firearms that were recovered by officers at his father’s home.

Illinois State Police, which issues gun licenses, said the shooter applied for a license in December 2019 when he was 19 years old. His father sponsored his application.

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

In other developments, authorities reported the death of a seventh person. More than three dozen other people were injured in the attack, which Covelli said the suspect had been planning for several weeks.

Investigators who questioned the suspect and reviewed his social media posts found no motive or indications that he targeted victims based on race, religion or other protected status, Covelli said.


Earlier in the day, FBI agents peered into trash cans and under picnic blankets as they searched for more evidence at the crime scene. The shots were initially mistaken for fireworks before hundreds of revelers fled in terror.

A day later, baby carriages, lawn chairs and other items left behind by panicked parade-goers remained in a wide police perimeter. Outside the police tape, some residents came forward to collect blankets and chairs they left behind.

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

“People didn’t know right away where the gunfire was coming from, whether the shooter was in front of you or behind you chasing you,” he said Tuesday as he put away a stroller and lounge chairs.

The gunman initially evaded capture by dressing as a woman and blending into the fleeing crowd, Covelli said.


The shooting was another that shattered the rituals of American life. Schools, churches, grocery stores, and now public parades have all become killing grounds in recent months. This time, the bloodshed came as the nation sought to celebrate its founding and the bonds that still hold it together.

“It definitely hits a lot harder when not only is it your hometown, but it’s right in front of you,” resident Ron Tuazon said as he and a friend walked back to the parade route Monday night to pick up chairs, blankets and a children’s bicycle that his family left behind when the shooting began.

“It’s commonplace now,” Tuazon said. “We don’t blink anymore. Until the laws change, everything will always be the same.


A police officer stopped Robert E. Crimo III, 21, north of the shooting scene several hours after police released his photo and warned that he was possibly armed and dangerous, Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said.

His father, Bob, a longtime deli owner, is running for mayor in 2019. The candidate who won that race, current Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, said she knew Crimo as a Cub Scout boy.

“And it’s one of those things where you step back and say, ‘What happened?'” Rotering said on NBC’s “Today” show. “How could someone become so angry, so hateful, to take this out on innocent people who were literally just having a family day out?”

Crimo’s attorney, Thomas A. Durkin, a prominent Chicago attorney, said he intends to plead not guilty to all charges.

Asked about his client’s emotional state, Durkin said he spoke to Crimo only once – for 10 minutes on the phone. He declined to comment further.


The shooting happened at a spot along the parade route where many residents staked out prime viewing spots earlier in the day.

Among them was Nicholas Toledo, who was visiting family in Illinois from Mexico, and Jackie Sundheim, a lifelong congregant and staff member at nearby North Shore Israel Congregation. The Lake County Medical Examiner released the names of four other victims.

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

Since the beginning of the year, the U.S. has seen 15 shootings that killed four or more people, including the one in Highland Park, according to the Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University Mass Homicide Database.

Dozens of smaller shootings in nearby Chicago also left eight people dead and 60 others injured over the July 4 weekend.


In 2013, Highland Park officials approved a ban on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. A local doctor and the Illinois State Rifle Association quickly disputed the liberal suburb’s position. The legal battle ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, when justices declined to hear the case and let the suburb’s restrictions stand.

Under Illinois law, gun purchases can be denied to people with felony convictions, drug addictions, or those deemed “mentally defective” and capable of harming themselves or others. This could have prevented a suicidal Crimo from obtaining a weapon.

But according to the law, who is “mentally defective” must be decided by a “court, board, commission or other legal body.”

The state has a so-called red flag law designed to stop dangerous people before they kill, but it requires family members, relatives, roommates or police to ask a judge to order guns seized.


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

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

Federal agents were reviewing Crimo’s online profiles, and a preliminary review of his Internet history showed he had researched mass murders and downloaded numerous photos depicting violent acts, including beheadings, a law enforcement official said.

The official could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Shapiro, a Highland Park resident who fled the parade with his family, said his 2-year-old son woke up screaming later that night.


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


Foody reported from Chicago. Groves reported from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Associated Press writers Don Babin in Chicago, Mike Householder in Highland Park and Bernard Condon and Mike Balzamo in New York also contributed.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

Parade shooting suspect buys 5 guns despite threats

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