…Police confirm six victims dead, 24 seriously wounded, hospitalised
Police arrested a suspect Monday after a mass shooting left six dead at a US Independence Day parade in a wealthy Chicago suburb, casting a dark shadow over the country’s most patriotic holiday.
Robert Crimo, 22, was identified as a “person of interest” and became the target of a massive manhunt across the town of Highland Park in Illinois, where a rooftop gunman with a high-powered rifle turned a family-focused July 4 parade celebration into a scene of death and trauma.
The shooting unfolded around 10 minutes after the Highland Park Fourth of July parade kicked off at 10am on Monday morning.
Firing into the holiday crowd, the shooter caused scenes of total chaos as panicked onlookers ran for their lives, leaving behind a parade route strewn with chairs, abandoned balloons and personal belongings.
Emergency officials said around two dozen people, including children, were treated for gunshot injuries, with some in critical condition.
After a brief car chase, Crimo was taken into custody “without incident,” Highland Park police chief Lou Jogmen told reporters.
Earlier, police had warned that he was armed and “very dangerous.”
Crimo bills himself as a musician, and goes by the online moniker “Awake the Rapper”.
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, according to the Gun Violence Archive website.
And it cast a pall over America’s Independence Day, in which towns and cities across the country hold similar parades and people — many dressed in variations on the US flag — hold barbecues, attend sports events and gather for firework displays.
In another July 4 shooting, two police officers were wounded when they came under fire during a fireworks display in Philadelphia, major US news outlets reported.
CBS News aired video taken from a high-rise building showing crowds fleeing in panic as fireworks burst in the sky. The circumstances of that shooting were not immediately known and police were not reachable Monday night.
In Highland Park, Emily Prazak, who marched in the parade, described the mayhem.
“We were getting ready to march down the street and then all the sudden waves of these people started running after, like running towards us. And right before that happened, we heard the pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, and I thought it was fireworks,” Prazak told AFP.
She added: “This is the day that we celebrate our country. This is also a day that our freedom got stolen from us — because many of us residents here, in this building even, we’re all locked down.”
– Spectators ‘targeted’ –
Don Johnson, who attended the parade, said he initially thought the gunshots were a car backfiring.
“And finally, I heard the screams from a block down and people running and carrying their kids and everything, and we ran into the gas station, and we were in there for three hours,” he told AFP.
“I’ve seen scenes like this over and over again on the TV and in different communities, and didn’t think it was going to happen here ever,” he said.
Police officials said the shooting began at 10:14 am, when 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.
Five of the six people killed, all adults, died at the scene. The sixth was taken to the hospital but succumbed to wounds there.
Dr Brigham Temple of Highland Park Hospital, where most of the victims were taken, said it had received 25 people with gunshot wounds aged eight to 85.
“Four or five” children were among them, he said, and that 16 people were later discharged.
Police said the shooter used a “high-powered rifle,” and “firearm evidence” had been located on the rooftop of a nearby business.
“All indications is he was discreet, he was very difficult to see,” said Covelli.
US media reported that Crimo’s online postings included violent content that alluded to guns and shootings. His YouTube and other social media accounts were not viewable Monday night.
One YouTube video posted eight months ago features images of a young man in a bedroom and a classroom along with cartoons of a gunman and people being shot, the Chicago Tribune reported.
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,” the newspaper said.
– 309 mass shootings so far –
President Joe Biden voiced his shock and vowed to keep fighting “the epidemic of gun violence” sweeping the country.
“I’m not going to give up,” he said.
Last week, Biden 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.
The deeply divisive debate over gun control 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 Uvalde, Texas.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 309 mass shootings carried out in the US so far in 2022 — including at least three others on July 4, though without any fatalities.
In an earlier report after the shooting on Monday, Highland Park Police Commander Chris O’Neill had told a news conference just before 2pm that the suspect was a white male 18-20 years old, with long black hair, small build, and wearing a white or blue t-shirt.
Sgt. Christopher Covelli, from the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, said the shooter appeared to have taken up up a sniper position on the rooftop.
The conditions of the injured ranged from serious to critical, Mr Covelli added.
“This was very random, very intentional and a very sad day,” Mr Covelli said during a later update, adding the suspect could still be in city or could have fled the area.
They recovered a high-powered rifle from the scene, but still consider the suspect to be armed and dangerous, police said.
Residents have been urged to shelter in place.
More than 100 local, state and federal law enforcement officers, including the FBI, are working on the investigation, Mr Covelli said.
“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims during this devastating time. 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,” Ms Rotering said.
She asked everyone in the area to remain calm, and on “high alert”.
“Please contact your loved ones and ensure that they’re safe and let them know that you’re safe as well. This situation, as you know, is evolving rapidly and we will continue to update you as we gain information and stabilise the situation,” Ms Rotering said.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker of Illinois condemned the shooter’s actions on Monday afternoon.
“There are no words for the kind of monster who lies in wait and fires into a crowd of families with children celebrating a holiday with their community,” he said in a statement.
“There are no words for the kind of evil that robs our neighbors of their hopes, their dreams, their futures.”
Senator Dick Durbin, the second ranking Democrat, said in a tweet he was “praying for all”.
“Unimaginable horror at this mass shooting. Details are hard to even repeat. My office is in touch with law enforcement agencies searching for the suspected shooter.”
Footage posted on social media shows revellers and parade participants suddenly fleeing in panic as gunfire erupted in the streets.
In the TikTok video, which has been widely shared, families are seen sitting on the kerb of the sidewalk watching a marching band walk past.
Suddenly a voice starts yelling “gunshots” and the parade watchers start to leap up from the ground.
The marching band members break into a run and sprint off in the direction of the parade route.
Screams are heard in the background and people flee from the area as local residents who had come to enjoy the family-friendly Independence Day celebrations were forced to seek shelter.
One local resident told the Associated Press that she was riding a parade float when she saw people running away from the area.
“People started saying ‘There’s a shooter, there’s a shooter, there a shooter,’” said Debbie Glickman.
“So we just ran. We just ran. It’s like mass chaos down there.”
Multiple law enforcement agencies are on the scene including Illinois State Police, Highland Park Police and Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
Illinois State Police tweeted at around 11.20am local time: “The Illinois State Police is currently assisting Highland Park PD with an active shoot situation that occurred at the Highland Park Parade.
“The public is advised to avoid the area of Central Ave and 2nd St. in Highland Park.”
Lake County Sheriff’s Office tweeted that it was al;so assisting Highland Park Police with a shooting along the parade route.
“We are assisting Highland Park Police with a shooting in the area of the Independence Day parade route. STAY OUT OF THE AREA – allow law-enforcement and first responders to do their work,” the department said.
Highland Park is around 25 miles north of Chicago.
The shooting marks the latest gun violence to tear apart a community in the US, coming just weeks after 21 students and teachers were killed in a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and 10 Black people were killed in a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York.