A gunman perched on a rooftop fired dozens of rounds at spectators at a Fourth of July parade in a Chicago suburb on Monday, killing at least six people and adding yet another name to the list of American towns caught up in a countrywide wave of mass-casualty shootings.
More than 30 additional victims were treated at hospitals after the shooter, described by police as a young man armed with a high-powered rifle, blasted seemingly at random into a crowd gathered to cheer on local marching bands in Highland Park, Ill., a community of about 30,000 people on greater Chicago’s affluent North Shore.
At least two long bursts of rapid gunfire left five people dead at the scene and sent hundreds of people fleeing in panic, leaving a wake of overturned lawn chairs, coolers and strollers. The wounded included young children as well as people in their 80s. One spectator, a father, put his young son in a dumpster for safety as he scrambled to find and shield other family members while bullets rained down.
Eight hours after the shooting, at about 6:30 p.m. local time, police announced the arrest of a “person of interest” and presumed suspect. Police identified the man as 22-year-old Robert E. Crimo III of suburban Chicago. He was apprehended without incident after a police officer spotted his car, a 2010 Honda Fit, on a busy highway in North Chicago. Crimo briefly tried to flee but was caught and then handcuffed facedown on the pavement, according to police and photos by witnesses to the arrest.
Law enforcement officials had described the shooter as a young White man with long black hair and a slim build. A photo of Crimo posted by police depicted a shaggy-haired male with multiple tattoos on his neck and face.
The image matches social media photos of a Bobby Crimo who performs as a Chicago-area rap artist under the name Awake the Rapper. The rapper’s IMDb website describes him as a “hip-hop phenom” from the Chicago area who is a “middle child of three and of Italian descent.” Some of the videos attributed to the rapper depict violent imagery, including a heavily armed shooter entering a school.
Witnesses told of seeing a gunman standing on the roof of a store on the parade route, firing at the crowd with a long gun as if shooting into a cattle pen. Police recovered a rifle at the scene, but, unsure whether the shooter had additional weapons, ordered residents to remain indoors.
The motive remained unclear late Monday. Highland Park, one of the country’s wealthiest towns and the setting for such Hollywood films as “Home Alone,” has large Jewish and Asian communities and a historically low crime rate.
The shooting comes weeks after high-profile, mass-casualty shootings at a Buffalo grocery store, where 10 Black people died and a suspect has been charged with a hate crime, and at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., where 19 children and two adults lost their lives.
Both of those events involved 18-year-olds armed with assault-style rifles. So far this year, the United States has recorded more than 250 mass shootings, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive.
Those shootings have driven the debate over firearms in the United States to a new level of intensity in recent weeks. Congress late last month passed the first notable gun-control legislation in decades, expanding background checks for some buyers and taking other steps. At the same time, the Supreme Court struck down a New York state law requiring that residents show a special need to carry a weapon.
The occurrence of yet another mass shooting — this one at a gathering celebrating the quintessential American holiday — set off anguish and despair as it added more fuel to the political debate over gun control.
President Biden, in a joint statement with first lady Jill Biden, said he was “shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day.” Biden, who just eight days ago signed into law the rare, if modest, congressional package of gun-control measures, said there is “much more work to do.”
Biden also briefly alluded to the shooting during remarks at a White House gathering to celebrate Independence Day with military families. He asked for a moment of silence for the victims of the shootings.
“Six people have passed and others are wounded, but we’ve got a lot more work to do, we’ve got to get this under control,” Biden said. He then repeated, “We’ve got to get this under control.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s response was far harsher.
“There are no words for the kind of monster who lies in wait and fires into a crowd of families celebrating a holiday with their community,” Pritzker (D) said. He added: “Prayers alone will not put a stop to the terror of rampant gun violence in our country.”