July 4 gunman charged with seven counts of murder

Robin Legrand with Chris Lefkow in Washington, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jul 06 2022 09:14 AM

Law enforcement officers continue the investigation at the scene of a mass shooting at a 4th of July celebration and parade in Highland Park, Illinois, July 5, 2022. Tannen Maury, EPA-EFE
Law enforcement officers continue the investigation at the scene of a mass shooting at a 4th of July celebration and parade in Highland Park, Illinois, July 5, 2022. Tannen Maury, EPA-EFE

A 21-year-old man who allegedly opened fire on a July 4 parade in a wealthy Chicago suburb while disguised in women's clothing was charged with seven counts of first-degree murder on Tuesday, prosecutors said.

Robert Crimo, 21, was arrested on Monday, several hours after the attack on a festive Independence Day crowd.

"There will be more charges," Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart told reporters. "We anticipate dozens of more charges centered around each of the victims."

Police spokesman Christopher Covelli said the death toll rose to seven on Tuesday after one of the wounded victims died in hospital. More than 35 people were injured.

Among the dead were Kevin McCarthy, 37 and his wife, Irina, 35 – the parents of a two-year-old boy who was found wandering alone after the shooting, according to CBS News.

Covelli said no motive had been established for the attack, which sent panicked parade-goers fleeing for their lives.

"We do believe Crimo pre-planned this attack for several weeks," and that he acted alone, he said.

"We have no information to suggest at this point it was racially motivated, motivated by religion or any other protected status," he added.

He said Crimo has a history of mental health issues and threatening behavior.

Police had been called twice to Crimo's home in 2019, once to investigate a suicide attempt, and the second time because a relative said he had threatened to "kill everyone" in the family, he said.

Police removed 16 knives, a dagger and a sword from the home but did not make any arrests, he said.

Covelli said Crimo used a fire escape to access the roof of a building overlooking the parade route and fired more than 70 rounds from a rifle "similar to an AR-15," one of several guns he had purchased legally.

"Crimo was dressed in women's clothing and investigators believe he did this to conceal his facial tattoos and his identity and help him during the escape with the other people who were fleeing the chaos," he said.

- 'Still reeling' -

Covelli said Crimo went to his mother's nearby home after the shooting and borrowed her car. He was captured about eight hours later after a brief chase.

He also said the authorities were investigating disturbing online posts and videos made by Crimo.

The shooting has left the upscale suburb in shock.

"We're all still reeling," Mayor Nancy Rotering told NBC's Today show. "Everybody knows somebody who was affected by this directly."

The mayor said she personally knew the suspected gunman when he was a young boy in the Cub Scouts.

"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 asked.

Crimo, whose father unsuccessfully ran for mayor and owns a store in Highland Park called Bob's Pantry and Deli, was an amateur musician billing himself as "Awake the Rapper."

The younger Crimo's online postings include violent content that alluded to guns and shootings.

One YouTube video posted eight months ago featured cartoons of a gunman and people being shot.

A voice-over says, "I need to just do it."

It adds: "It is my destiny. Everything has led up to this. Nothing can stop me, not even myself."

Crimo, who has the word "Awake" tattooed over an eyebrow, is seen sporting an "FBI" hat in numerous photos and a Trump flag as a cape in one picture.

The shooting is the latest in a wave of gun violence plaguing the United States, where approximately 40,000 deaths a year are caused by firearms, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

- 'Epidemic of gun violence' -

The deeply divisive debate over gun control was reignited by two massacres in May that saw 10 Black people gunned down at an upstate New York supermarket, and 19 children and two teachers slain at an elementary school in Texas.

The Highland Park shooting cast a pall over Independence Day, when towns and cities across the United States hold parades and people attend barbecues, sporting events and fireworks displays.

In another July 4 shooting, two police officers were wounded when they came under fire during a fireworks show in Philadelphia.

In Highland Park, Emily Prazak, who marched in the parade, described the mayhem.

"We heard the pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, and I thought it was fireworks," Prazak said.

President Joe Biden vowed to keep fighting "the epidemic of gun violence."

Last week, he signed the first significant federal bill on gun safety in decades, just days after the Supreme Court ruled that Americans have a fundamental right to carry a handgun in public.