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Alleged July 4 parade shooter charged with 7 counts of murder in ‘calculated attack’

Bobby” Crimo, 21, was apprehended late Monday afternoon after an hourslong manhunt
Brooke and Matt Strauss, who were married Sunday, look toward the scene of the mass shooting in downtown Highland Park, Ill., a Chicago suburb, after leaving their wedding bouquets near the scene of Monday’s mass shooting, Tuesday, July 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Prosecutors on Tuesday filed charges against the man suspected of firing upon crowds gathered for a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park on Monday morning, killing at least seven people and injuring more than 30.

Robert “Bobby” E. Crimo III, 21, is charged with seven counts first-degree murder in what Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart called a “premeditated and calculated attack.” He was apprehended late Monday afternoon after an hourslong manhunt involving more than 100 law enforcement agencies.

Rinehart said he anticipates dozens more charges.

Details about the attack and the background of the alleged shooter emerged throughout the day Tuesday, as the Highland Park community began grieving the losses.

Crimo planned the attack for weeks, police and prosecutors allege, then climbed a fire escape ladder to the roof of a building and fired as the Independence Day parade was in full swing. He dressed as a woman in order to evade detection, according to Chris Covelli, a spokesman with the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force.

After firing dozens of shots, Crimo exited the roof, dropped the rifle, slipped into the crowd and went to his mother’s house, Covelli said. The gun that was used in the attack was purchased legally in Illinois by Crimo, authorities said.

Attendees described hearing a barrage of bullets while watching floats and marchers on the street. People grabbed children and ran, taking cover in nearby shops. A tuba player recalled watching people running in panic while his band played.

In all, about 45 people were either killed or injured in some way during the attack, authorities said.

Among those who died were Highland Park residents Katherine Goldstein, 64; Irina McCarthy, 35; Kevin McCarthy, 37; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63; and Stephen Straus, 88; Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78, of Morelos, Mexico, also was killed. Officials have not yet released the name of the seventh victim.

Authorities at an earlier news briefing detailed two prior instances when police were called to the home of the suspect, including one in which Crimo threatened to “kill everyone.”

In September 2019, family members reported that Crimo threatened to kill everyone and that he had a collection of knives, Covelli said. Highland Park police responded to the home and removed 16 knives, a dagger and a sword from the home. Police notified Illinois State Police of the matter, but otherwise didn’t have probable cause to make an arrest, authorities said.

An Illinois State Police spokeswoman said that at that time, Crimo did not have a firearm owner’s identification card, required for the purchase of firearms, to revoke or review.

Earlier, in April 2019, police were called because Crimo had attempted suicide about a week earlier. Officers determined that the matter was being handled by mental health professionals.

Investigators haven’t determined a motive, though Covelli said investigators have been in “in discussions” with Crimo. No one else appears to have been involved in the shooting.

After escaping, Crimo walked to his mother’s house and borrowed her vehicle, Covelli said. There is no indication he shared anything about his alleged involvement in the shooting with his mother.

Following a police alert for the vehicle, an “alert member of the community” saw it and called 911.

After he was apprehended, officers found another rifle in the vehicle, Covelli said, which also appeared to have been legally purchased by Crimo. Other weapons were found in his Highwood home.

Investigators are asking members of the community to come forward with any video they may have of Crimo at the parade.

“The community has been absolutely terrific as it comes to reporting information they may have, things they may have witnessed, turning over video,” Covelli said.

Details on the original purchase of the weapon came from an expedited trace conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in the wake of the shooting. The weapon has been described by authorities as “high powered.”

The expedited trace provided a “major lead” to investigators, according to Covelli.

He also told the Chicago Tribune that the FBI is sending in an expert team to reconstruct the shooting, which means items left along the parade route will likely remain for several days.

The attack shuttered much of the North Shore while law enforcement from more than 100 agencies searched for the gunman. Parades and events in nearby towns were canceled while many sheltered in place, leaving quiet streets on the normally jubilant holiday.

Crimo posted online videos under the name The Awake Rapper, some with chilling references to violence, including one that features footage of a young man in a bedroom and a classroom along with cartoons of a gunman and people being shot.

In an interview with the “Today” show on NBC, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said she knew the suspect when he was a little boy and she was a Cub Scout 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,” Rotering said in the interview.

On Tuesday morning, downtown Highland Park was still littered with detritus left behind during the shooting. The parade route was lined with abandoned lawn chairs and strollers. American flags waved.

Some stunned residents tried to keep to normal routines, while bracing for more news of the dead and injured. Others picked up trash outside of the area still cordoned off by police.

In one case, officers let a sobbing woman through the police tape to retrieve a car seat.

Outside the Highland Park Police Department, two young girls wrote in multicolor chalk on the pavement: “Thank you first responders.”

Small memorials began emerging in the area Tuesday. Samantha Lanty and Meghan Higginson, both 20, learned under yellow crime scene and placed a bouquet of white flowers on the sidewalk. The women recalled attending the parade as a child, as well as growing up attending active shooter drills.

“How many events to keep occurring before someone steps up to change something?” Lanty said.

A block from the parade route, a group of men met for coffee near a Starbucks, where they’ve gathered every morning for 15 years. They had to bring their morning coffee from Dunkin’ because their store remained closed.

“We meet here every day to talk normally about fun stuff. Today is not so fun,” Highland Park resident Andrew Stone said. “This is such a small community. We’re all going to know someone who was injured.”

The men tried to find out who among the people they knew was shot. A family friend took a bullet to the foot. A woman at the temple had been killed, they found out.

They argued over why it happened here, in the tight-knit community they once thought was safe. Across the table, Jim Terman said he had been watching the parade from the block where the shooting happened. He can’t stop thinking about it.

“It just runs through your mind,” he said.

Among the injured was Chicago Public Schools teacher Zoe Kolpack, who was shot in the femur while attending the parade with her husband, Stephen; their two young children; her parents; and Stephen’s family, according to family friend Samantha Whitehead, who is raising money for medical costs.

Whitehead said Stephen Kolpack and Zoe’s dad, Mike Joyce, were shot in the leg as well, while Stephen’s brother, Nicholas, was shot in the kneecap. The injuries are not life-threatening, and the Kolpack children were unharmed, Whitehead said.

Whitehead said Zoe’s mother, Nancy Joyce, grabbed the two small kids and hid in a nearby building for about 45 minutes, until they were given the all-clear.

Meanwhile, Zoe’s dad “was hovering (over) her and protecting her because she couldn’t move. And she just said that, like, people were just running past her, and she was just screaming, ‘help, help.’ She said she felt like it went on for like 30 minutes,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead had raised about $140,000 through GoFundMe as of Tuesday morning.

In a statement, CPS said it was “devastated to learn that one of our CPS teachers and her family members are among those who were injured in Monday’s mass shooting in Highland Park.” Zoe, who has worked for the district since 2017, teaches preschool at William Dever Elementary School on the Northwest Side. CPS said “support services will be available to support the Dever Elementary staff and students as needed.”

—Annie Sweeney, Jake Sheridan, Madeline Buckley, Tracy Swartz and Emily Hoerner, Chicago Tribune

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