The gunman in Monday’s massacre at a Fourth of July parade in the Illinois city of Highland Park admitted he carried out the attack, killing seven and wounding dozens of others, prosecutors said in court Wednesday.
Robert E. Crimo III, 21, told authorities in a voluntary statement that he “looked down his sights, aimed and opened fire” on paradegoers, emptying two 30-round magazines before loading his weapon with a third and firing again, Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Ben Dillon alleged during a virtual bail hearing.
A judge ordered Crimo, who appeared at the hearing wearing black, to be held without bail on seven charges of first-degree murder. A conviction would result in a sentence of life imprisonment without parole, but more charges could be filed in the future, Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said.
“For each individual that was hurt, people can anticipate an attempted murder charge as well as an aggravated battery with a firearm charge,” Rinehart said in a news conference following the hearing. He added: “Every time he fires a bullet at an individual, he is committing aggravated discharge of a weapon, whether he hit someone or not. There will be many more charges coming in the coming weeks.”
Crimo was appointed a public defender and is due in court again July 28.
According to authorities, the shooter opened fire from a rooftop on a Highland Park business as the parade was underway just after 10 a.m. CT on Monday.
Crimo dressed in women’s clothing to conceal his identity and used makeup to cover his tattoos, investigators believe. He left the roof and blended in with the fleeing crowd, Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesperson Chris Covelli previously said.
Five people shot at the parade were pronounced dead at the scene, officials said, and two people hospitalized succumbed to wounds. A total of 39 patients were transported to medical facilities “by either ambulance or other means,” according to Jim Anthony with NorthShore University Health System, and two patients remain hospitalized as of Wednesday afternoon.
Surveillance video from the scene showed a person running west with a black bag over the shoulder immediately after the shooting, Dillon said Wednesday, outlining the events of July Fourth. While the individual was running, an object wrapped in cloth fell to the pavement. The subject left the object and continued running.
When it was recovered, authorities identified the object as a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle, Dillon said. One round was in the chamber, but there was no magazine inserted.
On the rooftop, investigators recovered the three 30-round magazines and 83 shell casings, Dillon said.
Complete coverage of the Highland Park shooting
Shooter ‘seriously contemplated’ committing a second shooting
Crimo is believed by authorities to have planned the attack for weeks, and the rifle he used and another he allegedly had when he was arrested by police appear to have been purchased legally in Illinois, Covelli said. Other guns were recovered from his home in nearby Highwood.
There could have been even more carnage: According to a police spokesperson, Crimo drove to Madison, Wisconsin, on Monday following the Illinois shooting, and contemplated an attack.
Crimo saw “a celebration that was occurring … and he seriously contemplated using the firearm he had in his vehicle to commit another shooting in Madison,” Covelli told reporters after Wednesday’s hearing, identifying the weapon as a Kel-Tec rifle, a foldable carbine available as a 9 mm or .40 caliber. Crimo had approximately 60 rounds of ammunition in his car at the time, Covelli said.
“We don’t have information to suggest he planned on driving to Madison initially to commit another attack. (But) we do believe that he was driving around following the first attack and saw the celebration,” Covelli said.
“Indications are that he hadn’t put enough thought or research into it,” Covelli said.
Covelli again declined to address the suspect’s motive, telling reporters he didn’t want to go into specific details about what Crimo told investigators.
“However, he had some type of affinity towards the numbers 4 and 7, and the inverse was 7/4,” Covelli said, referring to Monday’s date, July 4. According to Covelli, Crimo’s affinity “comes from music that he’s interested in.”
Officials have no information to suggest Monday’s shooting was “racially motivated, motivated by religion, or any other protected status,” Covelli said.
Gunman had prior contact with police
As another community reels after a shocking mass shooting, the town’s mayor is questioning how the gunman was able to purchase weapons given his previous encounters with law enforcement.
Yet information released by state and local police shows the shooter previously required officer intervention over threats of violence and mental health concerns.
Crimo had two encounters with police in 2019 over fears for his safety and that of others, information that prompted Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering to wonder how Crimo was able to later legally obtain firearms.
The Highland Park Police Department received a report in April 2019 that Crimo had earlier attempted suicide, Covelli said Tuesday. Police spoke with Crimo and his parents and the matter was handled by mental health professionals, he said.
In September that year, a relative reported that Crimo threatened family members – to “kill everyone” – and had a collection of knives, Covelli said. Police removed 16 knives, a dagger and a sword from their home.
Highland Park police submitted a “Clear and Present Danger” report about the visit to the Illinois State Police, the state agency said. Family members were not willing to file additional complaints, the state police said in a Tuesday news release.
The knives confiscated by Highland Park police were returned the same day after Crimo’s father claimed they were his, the state police said.
Over the next two years, Crimo legally purchased five guns, according to Covelli – including rifles, pistols and possibly a shotgun. State police confirmed Tuesday that Crimo passed four background checks between June 2020 and September 2021 when purchasing firearms, which included checks of the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
To buy guns in Illinois, people need a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card. Crimo was under 21, so he was sponsored by his father, state police said. Crimo’s application was not denied as there was “insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger” at the time.
Rinehart, the Lake County state’s attorney, told a CNN reporter at the news conference he didn’t want to comment on whether there could be charges for Crimo’s father or other relatives.
CNN legal analyst Areva Martin said parents historically haven’t been charged in mass shootings until recently, as in the case of a 15-year-old who allegedly killed four fellow students at a Michigan high school in November.
Parents Jennifer and James Crumbley have each pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors say their negligence allowed their son, Ethan, access to the weapon used in that mass shooting.
Martin said Illinois prosecutors would have to establish reasonable foreseeability if they want to prosecute Crimo’s father.
“The question this prosecutor’s going to have to ask (is) was it reasonably foreseeable that someone who had made a suicide attempt and who had threatened to kill others would lead that person … to commit the crime against the paradegoers,” she said.
“And if the answer to that question is yes … there definitely could be manslaughter charges filed against his dad, who did sign that consent form and gave consent for him to gain access to the high-powered weapon and weapons that were used.”
Mayor Rotering – who said she knew the shooter as a boy in a Cub Scouts pack she’d led – said she is “looking forward to an explanation” of how Crimo was able to obtain guns, saying Highland Park police had filed the necessary reports.
“We know that in other countries people suffer from mental illness, they suffer from anger, maybe they play violent video games, but they can’t get their hands on these weapons of war and they can’t bring this kind of carnage to their hometowns. This has to stop,” the mayor told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday, noting the state has “red flag” laws but adding people need to speak up if they see warning signs.
The only offense included in the shooter’s legal history was a January 2016 ordinance violation for possession of tobacco, police said, which occurred when he was a juvenile.
7 victims identified by officials
Authorities identified six of the seven victims killed in the shooting on Tuesday, and a seventh was identified Wednesday:
• 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
• 78-year-old Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza of Morelos, Mexico
• 69-year-old Eduardo Uvaldo of Waukegan, Illinois
Irina and Kevin McCarthy were with their 2-year-old son, Aiden, who was found alive and taken to safety, their family told CNN.
Aiden survived because his father shielded him with his body, his grandfather, Michael Levberg, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Aiden was taken to a police station, and Levberg picked him up, the grandfather told the Chicago Tribune.
“When I picked him up, he said, ‘Are Mommy and Daddy coming soon?” Levberg said Tuesday, according to the Tribune. “He doesn’t understand.”
CNN’s Taylor Romine, Rebekah Riess, Joe Sutton, Adrienne Broaddus, Sara Smart, Sharif Paget, Laura Klairmont, Ashley Killough, Jason Kravarik, Alisha Ebrahimji, Amir Vera, Steve Almasy, Jason Hanna, Eric Levenson, Helen Regan and Vanessa Price contributed to this report.