By Lynn Sweet, Manny Ramos, Elvia Malagón, Sophie Sherry
Originally published: Chicago Sun-Times
More than eight hours after firing a “high-powered rifle” from a rooftop onto a crowd attending Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade, killing six people and wounding dozens in one of the worst mass shootings in Illinois history, a gunman suspected of causing the carnage was pulled over peacefully on U.S. 41 in Lake Forest.
At 6:45 p.m. Monday, the Highland Park police said a “person of interest” — identified as Robert E. “Bobby” Crimo III, 22 — had been “taken into custody without incident” on U.S. 41 at Westleigh Road in Lake Forest.
The arrest came after he was spotted by a North Chicago police officer and following a short chase. Crimo was taken to the Highland Park police station, police Chief Lou Jogmen said.
Christopher Covelli of the Lake County sheriff’s office and the Lake County major crimes task force said authorities were using the terms “suspect” and “person of interest” interchangeably.
As of 9 p.m., no charges had been filed, and the police gave no indication of what the motive for the shootings might have been.
As news of the arrest spread, people began driving by the Highland Park police station and expressing their thanks to officers, yelling “thank you” and “good job.
Stacy Shaulman, a lifelong Highland Park resident, was among a few dozen people who gathered outside the police station to await Crimo’s arrival.
“It’s been a horrific day,” Shaulman said. “I’m glad they got him. And, unfortunately, he’s a Highland Park kid, and people knew his family. His family has been around a long time.”
The shooter used “a high-powered rifle” that has been recovered, said Covelli, who said the gunman fired from a rooftop. “He was very discreet and very difficult to see.”
He called the crime “very random, very intentional.”
It appeared that the gunman had used an “unsecured” ladder to climb to the rooftop, Covelli said.
Authorities said the ownership history of the rifle was being examined by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Victims range in age from 8 to 85
Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek said five people were dead at the scene, all adults, and another died at a hospital. It wasn’t clear how old the sixth victim was. All of the victims have been identified, she said.
Among them was Nicolas Toledo, a grandfather visiting family in Highland Park. Also killed was Jacki Sundheim, according to North Shore Congregation Israel, where she worked as a teacher.
Dozens of the injured were taken to Highland Park Hospital, Lake Forest Hospital and Evanston Hospital. The “vast majority” were treated for gunshot wounds, though some “sustained injuries as a result of the ensuing chaos at the parade,” according to NorthShore University Health Systems, which owns the Highland Park and Evanston hospitals.
At Highland Park Hospital, Dr. Brigham Temple said 25 of the 26 people treated there were gunshot victims and that 19 of them had been treated and sent home.
Temple said they ranged in age from 8 years old to 85. About “four or five” of them are children, he said. One child was transported from there to the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, and another was transferred to Evanston Hospital.
The injuries varied. “Some of them were minor,” Temple said. “Some of them were much more severe.”
“It breaks your heart to see innocents wounded,” said Dr. Mark Talamonti, a surgeon who was among those treating the injured.
Shots fired ‘in rapid succession’
At the parade scene, one witness said he counted more than 20 shots.
Miles Zaremski, a Highland Park resident, told the Chicago Sun-Times: “I heard 20 to 25 shots, which were in rapid succession. So it couldn’t have been just a handgun or a shotgun.”
Zaremski said he saw “people in that area that got shot,” including “a woman covered with blood .... She did not survive.”
Monday’s Fourth of July parade was the first in Highland Park since before the pandemic.
As panicked paradegoers fled the parade route on Central Street in downtown Highland Park, they left behind chairs, baby strollers and blankets as they sought cover, not knowing just what happened.
Adrienne Drell, a former Sun-Times reporter, said she was sitting on a curb along Central Avenue watching the parade when she saw members of the Highland Park High School marching band start to run.
“Go to Sunset,” Drell said she heard the students shout, directing people to nearby Sunset Foods.
A man picked her up off the curb and urged her to get out, Drell said.
“There’s panic in the whole town,” she said. “Everyone is just stunned beyond belief.”
She ran across to a nearby parking lot with other people who had been watching the parade.
“It was a quiet, peaceful, lovely morning, people were enjoying the parade,” Drell said. “Within seconds, to have that peacefulness suddenly ripped apart, it’s scary. You can’t go anywhere, you can’t find peace. I think we are falling apart.”
Eric Trotter, 37, who lives blocks from the shooting, echoed that sentiment.
“I felt shocked,” Trotter said. “How could this happen in a peaceful community like Highland Park.”
Chaos, and a frantic search for family members
As police cars sped by on Central Avenue, sirens blaring, Alexander Sandoval, 39, sat on a bench and cried. He’d gotten up before 7 a.m. to set up lawn chairs and a blanket in front of the main stage of the parade. He lives within walking distance from there, so he went home to have breakfast with his son, partner and stepdaughter before going back for the parade.
Hours later, he said he and his family ran after hearing the gunfire, afraid for their lives.
“We saw the Navy’s marchers and float pass by, and, when I first heard the gunshots, I thought it was them saluting the flag and shooting blanks,” Sandoval said. “But then I saw people starting to run, and the shots kept going. We started running.”
He said that, in the chaos, he and his partner Amairani Garcia ran in different directions, he with his 5-year-old son, Alex, she with her 6-year-old daughter, Melani.
“I grabbed my son and tried to break into one of the local buildings, but I couldn’t,” Sandoval said. “The shooting stopped. I guess he was reloading. So I kept running and ran into an alley and put my son in a garbage dumpster so he could be safe.”
Then, he said he ran in search of the rest of his family and saw bodies in pools of blood on the ground.
“I saw a little boy who was shot being carried away,” Sandoval said. “It was just terror.”
He found his partner and stepdaughter, safe, inside a McDonald’s nearby.
“This doesn’t happen here,” he said. “It shouldn’t happen anywhere.”
Don Johnson, 76. who lives about two blocks from the shooting scene, thought at first the gunfire was a car backfiring. He said he ran with several other people to a nearby BP gas station and described the scene as “surreal.”
“It’s just a terrible thing,” he said. “I never would’ve thought this would’ve happened in downtown Highland Park.”
Johnson said his daughter lives in Chicago with her son and that he’s been urging them to move to Highland Park, telling her recently, “It’s safe.”
Now, he said, it’s clear that “it can happen anywhere.”
David Goldenberg, the Midwest regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, was among those at the parade. He’d gone early to set up chairs for his family along the parade route. He said he ended up moving their chairs to be closer to friends.
If not for that, Goldenberg said, “We would have been awfully close” to the shooting.
“It was chaotic,” he said. “Those sorts of things that you hear about — those split-second moments accounting for everyone in your family as people are yelling, ‘There’s a shooter! There’s a gun!’ ”
He said he knows of an adult who was killed, though he declined to discuss details.
Meg Coles drove from Atlanta with her 11- and 13-year-old sons to visit her sister-in-law for the Fourth of July, a family tradition.
“I just tried to explain to them that this is rare and probably won’t happen again,” said Coles, whose family was sitting about two blocks away along the parade route when the shooting happened.
But they weren’t buying it, she said: “I think it’s going to take them awhile.”
Sisters Christina Sendick, 20, and Angela Sendick, 22, showed up late for the parade, as people ran, some screaming, others bleeding. They grew up near Waukesha, Wisconsin, where someone drove a sport-utility vehicle into a Christmas parade crowd last November, killing six people and injuring 62 others.
“It’s just crazy no one can figure out how to put a stop to all this,” Angela Sendick said.
Pritzker: Mass shootings an American tradition
“I’m furious that yet more innocent lives were taken by gun violence. I’m furious that their loved ones are forever broken by what took place today.I’m furious that children and their families have been traumatized. I’m furious that this is happening in communities all across Illinois and America. While we celebrate the Fourth of July just once a year, mass shootings have become our weekly — yes, weekly — American tradition.”
In a written statement, President Joe Biden said: “Jill and I are shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day.”
News of the shooting spree in Highland Park prompted other suburbs to cancel their Fourth of July celebrations.
Former Obama White House adviser David Alexrod tweeted that someone he knew was at the parade, writing: “A friend took his kids to July 4th Parade in Highland Park today. His son has special needs. When shots rang out, they ran for their lives, the dad pushing his grown son’s wheelchair —which at one point tumbled over. On America’s day, what has become a sickeningly American story.”
After Crimo’s arrest, across the street from a mobile command center that the police had set up, Jerry Felsenthal, who’s lived in Highland Park for 32 years, said he worries that, with so many guns on the streets, there will be more mass shootings.
“It’s going to happen again,” Felsenthal said. “It’s inevitable.”
Police escort people away from the parade scene after the shooting in Highland Park Monday. | Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times
Contributing: Zack Miller, Frank Main, Mitchell Armentrout, Michael Loria