Yet Another Mass Shooting: Highland Park 4th of July Parade Massacre Sees 7 Dead, Dozens Injured by Sniper

Highland Park
A rooftop shooter with a high-powered rifle opened fire at a 4th of July parade.Getty/Chicago Tribune

“I’m furious because it does not have to be this way," said Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker after a shooter armed with a high-powered rifle opened fire on an Independence Day parade in Highland Park.

The suburban Illinois enclave of Highland Park is in tatters after yet another mass shooting in America, this one at a parade celebrating the nation's birthday where a shooter armed with a high-powered rifle killed seven people and wounded more than 30, including children.

The death toll rose late Tuesday to seven, after a hospitalized victim died, authorities said. Earlier, reports said five adults died on the parade route Monday, and a sixth perished in a nearby medical center hours later that day.

Parade-goers initially thought the shots were fireworks, until people lining the street started falling in bloody heaps and a stampede began, witnesses said.

Great-grandfather Nicolas Toledo, 76, was sitting in his wheelchair with his family when the shooting started. A relative tried to shield him, but he died on the street, his family said. Toledo, who had dual citizenship, had spent much of his life in Mexico, but had just moved back to Highland Park to be with his family.

"It's an enormous pain," his granddaughter, Alba Toledo, 23, told USA Today. "Believe me, my grandfather was a great person, with an enormous heart."

A pre-school teacher and her husband were shot in front of their two young children, their family said. Zoe and Stephen Kolpack, her father and her brother-in-law, were all injured when the gunman opened fire. A GoFundMe campaign has been established to help with medical costs. 

"They are all in the hospital undergoing various surgeries, which will seriously impact these families financially," wrote the organizer. "I do not want this to be another burden on them as they will have many obstacles to go through in the months ahead."

A total of 26 patients ranging in age from 8 to 85 were taken to Highland Park Hospital, said Dr. Brigham Temple, medical director of the NorthShore University Health System. At least four were children, he said.

More than 30 people were injured, police said, including at least one child who was in critical condition, said Highland Park Fire Chief Joe Schrage.

Nineteen have been released after receiving treatment.

Authorities identified Robert "Bobby" E. Crimo III as the suspected shooter. The 21-year-old was first identified as a person of interest on Monday.

Armed with a high-powered rifle, Crimo allegedly climbed a fire-escape ladder to the roof of a business and took aim at the crowd below, Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said. He fired more than 70 rounds before climbing down and blending into those on the street by wearing women's clothing and fleeing in the chaos, Covelli said. 

Crimo allegedly went to his mother's house after the shootings and borrowed her car, Covelli said at a Tuesday press conference. A citizen called 911 to report seeing the suspect driving a Honda. Crimo was arrested without incident Monday night, Covelli said.

He is expected to be charged Tuesday in connection with the shootings, officials said.

The suspected gunman is an aspiring rapper who called himself "Awake the Rapper" and had posted music videos on social media platforms, officials said. Some of the videos, which have now been removed, contained bloody violence including a stick figure with an automatic rifle, authorities said.

The postings "reflected a plan and a desire to commit carnage for a long time in advance," Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said in an interview Tuesday with NBC's "Today" show.

"And it's one of those things where you step back and you say, what happened?" she said. "How did somebody become this angry and hateful to then take it out on innocent people who literally were just having a family day out?"

She said she knew the suspect years ago, when she was his Cub Scout pack leader.

"Many years ago, he was just a little boy, a quiet little boy that I knew," she told CNN. The mayor said his mug shot, showing him with multiple tattoos, was particularly haunting.

"It breaks my heart. I see this picture and through the tattoos, I see the little boy," she said. "I don't know what got him to this point."

The mayor said the suspect legally purchased the high-powered rifle in Illinois, but such weapons are illegal within her city limits.

“I’m furious because it does not have to be this way," said Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker at a Monday press conference, as officials called for tougher gun control laws. President Joe Biden joined that chorus, saying, "I'm not going to give up fighting the epidemic of gun violence," in a White House statement.

The aftermath after Highland Park parade-goers ran for their lives. - Getty

Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet was attending the parade with her family on her day off. She later filed a story about what she saw.

"I just wanted to go to this parade and enjoy the day. Hang out with friends. Maybe after the parade, go to one of the stunning Lake Michigan beaches that hug this North Shore suburb. Or maybe have a swim at the Highland Park pool, next to the fire station. That fire station transformed into an emergency operations center after the unimaginable — is this a cliché? — happened.

"In a matter of seconds, a sniper — using a high-powered, rapid-fire weapon — slaughtered six people and wounded dozens of others as the parade made its way down Central Avenue in downtown Highland Park," Sweet wrote.

The suspect's uncle, Paul A. Crimo, said he was "heartbroken" that his nephew was a suspect in the deadly attack. "There were no signs that I saw that would make him do this," he told CNN.

The young man lived in an apartment behind a house in Highwood, Illinois, owned by his father, said the uncle. He said he last saw his nephew Sunday evening, sitting in a recliner at the house and immersed in his computer.

"Everything was as normal," he told the cable network.

Monday's shooting carnage followed high-profile mass shootings in New York and Texas, and as outrage built over the police killing of 25-year-old Jayland Walker in Akron, Ohio, last week.

Highland Park's massacre was not the only July 4th celebration marred by gun violence.

In Philadelphia, two police officers were shot when gunfire erupted at the city's Independence Day gathering. People ran for their lives after popping sounds ricocheted through the crowd.

No suspects have been identified in that case, authorities said.

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