HIGHLAND PARK (REUTERS, AFP) - Police on Monday (July 4) announced they had captured a person of interest associated with a shooting that killed six people and wounded more than 36 when a man with a high-powered rifle opened fire from a rooftop at a Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park.
Police confirmed they captured 22-year-old Robert E. Crimo III, who was from the area. They said he was driving a silver 2010 Honda Fit car.
Police can be seen surrounding a car and then Crimo exiting the vehicle with his hands raised, according to a video by the Chicago affiliate of ABC News. Crimo lies flat on the ground before police take him into custody.
Charges will be filed, Highland Park Police said.
The shooting caused toddlers to abandon tricycles and parents to run for safety with their children, turning a civic display of patriotism into a scene of panicked mayhem.
“It sounded like fireworks going off,” said retired doctor Richard Kaufman who was standing across the street from where the gunman opened fire, adding that he heard about 200 shots.
"It was pandemonium. A stampede. Babies were flying in the air. People were diving for cover,” he said. “People were covered in blood tripping over each other.” Police did not have a motive for the shooting.
More than 36 people were injured, mostly with gunshot wounds, said Jim Anthony, a spokesman for the NorthShore University HealthSystem. The 26 victims taken to the Highland Park hospital ranged in age from 8 to 85, said Brigham Temple, an emergency room doctor.
The New York Times named one of the dead as 76-year-old Nicolas Toledo, who was in a wheelchair and had not wanted to attend the parade, but his disabilities required that he be around someone full time and his family had not wanted to miss the event.
“We were all in shock,” his granddaughter Xochil Toledo said. “We thought it was part of the parade.”
At least one of those killed was a Mexican national, a senior Mexican Foreign Ministry official said on Twitter.
The shooting comes with gun violence fresh on the minds of many Americans, after a massacre on May 24 killed 19 school children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, which followed a May 14 attack that killed 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
Along the parade route, abandoned chairs and other belongings could be seen scattered after panicked spectators fled for their lives.
“Everyone thought it was fireworks,” one parade-goer, identified only as Zoe, told CNN. “My dad thought it was part of the show, and I’m like, ‘Dad, no... something is wrong.’ And I grabbed him. And I looked back at him, and then it was just a sea of panic, and people just falling and falling.”
As they ran, she said that some 20 feet (6m) behind her, “I saw a girl shot and killed... saw her die.” Zoe said they first hid behind a dumpster before police pulled them into the basement of a sporting goods store with some other people, several of whom were injured, including a man who appeared to have been shot in the ear and a girl who was shot in the leg.
When they were finally able to leave, she told CNN, the parade route resembled “a battle zone. And it’s disgusting.”
Police officials said the shooting began around 10.14am (11.14pm Singapore time), as the parade was approximately three-quarters of the way through.
“It sounds like spectators were targeted... So, very random, very intentional and very sad,” said Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli.
Police said the shooter was using a “high-powered rifle,” and “firearm evidence” had been located on a nearby rooftop.
“All indications is he was discreet, he was very difficult to see,” said Covelli.
Nancy Rotering – the mayor of Highland Park, a wealthy suburb north of Chicago in the Midwestern state of Illinois – condemned the holiday violence.
“On a day that we came together to celebrate community and freedom, we’re instead mourning the tragic loss of life and struggling with the terror that was brought upon us,” she said.
‘Enough is enough’
Multiple law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the state police and the local sheriff’s office, are assisting with the response.
Highland Park announced that all July 4 festivities had been canceled as a result of the violence, as did nearby Evanston.
“While there is no known threat to Evanston residents, the shooter is still at large; therefore, cancelations are taking place in an abundance of caution,” the city said.
US Representative Brad Schneider, who was at the parade, said on Twitter that “a shooter struck in Highland Park during the Independence Day parade.”
“Hearing of loss of life and others injured. My condolences to the family and loved ones; my prayers for the injured and for my community,” he wrote, adding: “Enough is enough!”
The shooting is part of a wave of gun violence plaguing the United States, where approximately 40,000 deaths a year are caused by firearms, including suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive website.
The debate over gun control – a deeply divisive issue in the country – was reignited by two massacres in May that saw 10 Black supermarket shoppers gunned down in upstate New York and 21 people, mostly young children, slain at an elementary school in Texas.
Congress passed the first significant bill on gun safety in decades in the wake of those killings. President Joe Biden signed it into law in late June, saying that while it falls short of what is really needed, it will still save lives.
But a day earlier, proponents of tougher firearms laws suffered a setback when the US Supreme Court ruled that Americans have a fundamental right to carry a handgun in public, a landmark decision with far-reaching implications for states and cities across the country trying to rein in gun violence.