The man suspected of carrying out the mass shooting that killed at least seven people at a 4th of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, was charged with seven counts of first-degree murder on Tuesday.
Lake County state’s attorney Eric F. Rinehart told reporters that the 21-year-old suspect, Robert E. Crimo III, will likely face "many" additional charges for the “premeditated and calculated attack" that injured dozens of other people who tried to flee the hail of gunfire as the parade got underway. Authorities said more than 70 bullets were fired from a rooftop during the attack.
If convicted of the murder charges, Rinehart said Crimo would face a mandatory sentence of life without parole.
He was arraigned in court on Wednesday, where he was denied bail. At the hearing, Assistant State Attorney Ben Dillon said Crimo “provided a voluntary statement to investigators confessing to his actions" following his arrest.
Crimo was arrested Monday evening after an intense search and remains in custody. He has spoken with investigators but no motive for the shooting has been identified, authorities said.
Chris Covelli, a spokesperson for the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, said in a news conference on Wednesday that the suspect had "some type of affinity towards the number 4 and 7, and inverse with 7, 4," linked to music that he was interested in.
Covelli previously said a family member of Crimo's called police in September 2019 to report that Crimo had threatened to kill people and that he had a stash of knives. Covelli said officers removed 16 knives from Crimo's possession, but added that there was no probable cause for an arrest at the time.
Illinois State Police said in a statement Tuesday that it received a "clear and present danger report" in connection with the incident, which the agency said involved threats he made against his family. But, police said, "no one, including family, was willing to move forward on a complaint nor did they subsequently provide information on threats or mental health that would have allowed law enforcement to take additional action." As a result, no firearms restraining order was filed against him.
According to state police, Highland Park police returned the knives to his father after he claimed they were stored in Crimo's closet "for safekeeping."
Crimo then applied for a Firearm Owners Identification card in December 2019 when he was 19 years old, state police said. His application was sponsored by his father (applicants under the age of 21 need a legal guardian or parent to sponsor them in order to apply).
"Therefore, at the time of FOID application review in January of 2020, there was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger and deny the FOID application," the agency said.
The suspect's family has retained a lawyer, who said in a statement on Tuesday that they asked for privacy following the tragedy.
Months earlier, in April 2019, authorities said officers were called because Crimo had attempted suicide. Covelli said officers spoke to Crimo and his parents, and the issue was handed off to mental health professionals. It's unclear when Crimo bought the firearm used in Monday's shooting, but police said it was after his knives were confiscated.
Officials said they believe Crimo purchased the "high-powered rifle" legally and "preplanned this attack for several weeks." The rifle was fired from the roof of a nearby business, which authorities believe the shooter accessed by climbing the ladder of a fire escape.
Following the attack, Covelli said Crimo disguised himself in women's clothing "to conceal his facial tattoos and his identity and help him during the escape with other people who were fleeing the chaos." He then walked to his mother's house, where he borrowed her car. An individual who saw the vehicle called 911, at which point police found and apprehended him.
Investigators determined that the suspect drove to Madison, Wisconsin, after the attack in Highland Park, where he threw out his phone. While he was there, he saw another celebration happening and "seriously contemplated using the firearm he had in his vehicle to commit another shooting in Madison," Covelli said Wednesday, but drove back to Illinois, because "there were indications that he didn't put enough planning forward to commit another attack." He had about 60 rounds of ammunition at the time, Covelli said.
A YouTube video from the Chicago Sun-Times showed paradegoers in Highland Park running after hearing gunshots erupt in the middle of the event at around 10:14 a.m.
In a Facebook post, Mayor Nancy Rotering called it "the bloodiest day that we have ever experienced in Highland Park" and said flags would be flown at half-mast. The suburb about 25 miles north of Chicago is home to about 30,000 people.
"Our community, like so many before us, is devastated," Rotering wrote. "It’s impossible to imagine the pain of this kind of tragedy until it happens in your backyard. ... A mass shooting such as this casts a much wider net of agony than what the public is typically exposed to; it’s a crisis that devastates entire families and communities in a single moment and we know will take time to heal."
In an NBC interview Tuesday morning, Rotering said she does not "believe he was previously known to police" but added she personally knew the person of interest as a child, when he was a Cub Scout and she was a troop 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?'" she said.
Officials on Tuesday also released the names of six of the seven people killed in the attack. They included Nicolas Toledo, a 78-year-old grandfather who attended the parade with his family, who was struck three times, his granddaughter Xochil Toledo told the New York Post.
“It could’ve been major. He took three bullets, and those bullets could have been aimed at either me or my boyfriend,” she said, calling her grandfather a “lifesaver.”
Toledo was not keen on going to the parade but went with his family because he was disabled and required around-the-clock care, the New York Times reported. He used a wheelchair and had other medical issues after being hit by a car in Highland Park a few years ago, and he'd recently moved back to the US after living in Mexico so that his family could care for him, according to the Times.
“What was suppose[d] to be a fun family day turned into a horrific nightmare for us all,” Xochil wrote in a GoFundMe.
He had eight children and many more grandchildren, Xochil wrote, describing him as “a loving man, creative, adventurous and funny.”
Another granddaughter, Kimberly Rangel, said the family was broken by Toledo’s death. “I think you hear about these things on the news all the time, but you don’t expect it to happen so close to home, and especially to your family,” she told CBS Chicago. “It’s all kind of affected us really hard.”
The North Shore Congregation Israel also identified Jacki Sundheim, a former preschool teacher, as a victim. Sundheim was a “lifelong congregant” and “cherished member” of its staff, NSCI said in a statement.
“Jacki was senselessly gunned down watching a parade that’s she’s been to her entire life just two towns north,” her nephew Luke Sundheim wrote on Facebook.
His aunt was “one of the kindest people you’d ever meet,” he wrote, and she had “endless love” for her husband and daughter.
“The world lost a truly special person and I’m both furious and incredibly sad that I won’t be able to spend any more time with her,” he continued. “I love America, but this can not keep happening to innocent loving people.”
According to the coroner's office, others who died include Stephen Straus, 88; Kevin McCarthy, 37; Irina McCarthy, 35; and Katherine Goldstein, 64. Officials did not immediately release the name of the seventh person who died on Tuesday.
Crimo had an extensive online footprint, both as himself and as his rapper alter ego, “Awake the Rapper.” Many of his posts featured images of violence and firearms. Although his YouTube channel had been removed as of Monday night, the Daily Beast reported that a number of his music videos contained depictions of a school shooting and a firefight with police. According to NBC News, he was the administrator of a Discord server in which he made posts referencing suicide. Images of his archived Twitter account seen by BuzzFeed News show that he attended a Trump rally dressed as the character from the Where’s Waldo? books. At one point he posed for a photo wrapped in a Trump flag.
The American Public Health Association says gun violence in the US is a public health crisis. It is a leading cause of premature death in the country, responsible for more than 38,000 deaths annually. As of July 5, at least 22,434 people have died from gun violence this year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.
Ellie Hall and Stephanie K. Baer contributed reporting to this story.