HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. – Six people were killed and at least two dozen injured Monday as gunfire and chaos shattered a Fourth of July parade in this affluent Chicago suburb, and a manhunt was underway for the killer.
Authorities identified a person of interest as Robert “Bobby” E. Crimo, 22, who is believed to be driving a 2010 silver Honda Fit. Crimo was described as a white male with dark hair and believed to be armed and dangerous.
The house at an address listed for Crimo just blocks from the shooting scene was surrounded by law enforcement vehicles Monday evening. Several police cars and at least one armored vehicle were stationed outside.
Residents were told to shelter in place during the search for the suspect. Video from the scene shows scores of people running for cover as music continues to play minutes after the event began at 10 a.m. local time Monday.
“We’re asking everybody to stay indoors,” Lake County Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said. “Stay vigilant right now.”
President Joe Biden said in a statement he and his wife are “shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day.” Biden added that despite the gun safety bill he signed June 25, “there is much more work to do.”
Covelli said the gunman apparently fired from a rooftop at around 10:14 a.m. and a high-powered rifle was recovered at the scene.
Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek said the five people killed at the parade were adults but didn’t have information on the sixth victim, who died at a hospital.
Dr. Brigham Temple, medical director for emergency preparedness at NorthShore University Health System, said the facility received 26 patients from the attack and 25 of them had gunshot wounds, including four or five children. He added that 19 of the injured were treated and released. Temple also said at least 10 other patients were taken to other area hospitals.
Hundreds involved in manhunt and investigation
SWAT teams ushered spectators out of buildings after they fled the street, Covelli said. Hundreds of federal, state and local officers were involved in the manhunt and investigation, he said. The Justice Department said Attorney General Merrick Garland was briefed on the shooting and the investigation. The FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assisted local authorities.
Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., said he and staffers were gathering at the start of the parade when the shooting started. All are safe, he said.
“My condolences to the family and loved ones; my prayers for the injured and for my community; and my commitment to do everything I can to make our children, our towns, our nation safer,” he tweeted. “Enough is enough!”
Highland Park, home to about 30,000 people, is about 25 miles north of Chicago on Lake Michigan. Clothing stores, restaurants and gift shops line the tree-shaded street with brick sidewalks leading into the center of town, where a large American flag waved above caution tape and rows of police cars.
Abandoned lawn chairs, wagons and bikes were scattered along the parade route. Sirens wailed on the 88-degree, overcast day as law enforcement vehicles flew past residential streets. Curious residents walked along the sidewalks as officers with rifles stood along the edges of a park downtown.
Alexander Sandoval, 39, a contractor, shook as he stood outside his neighbor’s house with his 5-year-old son, his partner and her 6-year-old daughter. He said he had set up chairs right in front of the stage at 7 a.m., three hours before the festivities began.
“When everything started happening, we thought it was the Navy saluting the flag,” he told USA TODAY. “Shots rang out. I grabbed my kid and ran.”
Sandoval said he tried to break a store window to get inside a building and ended up putting his son as well as Sandoval’s younger brother and the family dog in a large trash bin before going to search for his girlfriend and her daughter.
“I saw people shot on the ground. I saw two, three people shot. I saw a police officer just carrying a little boy, the age of my son. It’s just emotional,” he said. “I just heard the bullets hitting. I just know I had to keep moving.”
‘Everybody started to panic’
Manuel Rangel, 28, said he saw dozens of people running past his house, away from the parade area downtown.
“They looked scared. They were panicking,” he told USA TODAY. “You never see those things here. It’s a quiet place.”
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Sharon Genest, 70, stood outside her home across from a firehouse. An American flag and star decorations hung on her front door. She said she picked up her 8-year-old granddaughter to watch the parade Monday morning and was there when band members marching in the parade suddenly dispersed and ran.
“I was only two blocks away. And when they said run, you run. But everybody started to panic,” she said. “There was a little pandemonium.”
Emir Gomez, 41, stood outside his parents’ house across from the fire station as sirens blared and a helicopter flew overhead. He said he was visiting his parents for the parade and was positioned near the end of the parade.
“It’s a tradition that we do every year,” he said. “We saw two cop cars go in the opposite direction, which was unusual. We saw people running. There were carrying what they could.
“This kind of thing shouldn’t be happening here. And now it has. Are we safe anywhere?”
Celebrations in surrounding areas canceled
Local officials in communities near Highland Park announced the cancellation of celebrations on Monday.
The remainder of Highland Park’s Fourth Fest was canceled as law enforcement responded to the shooting, according to Mayor Nancy Rotering. More than 10 surrounding communities also announced cancellations and closures.
Village officials from Glencoe and Glenview noted that while there were “no incidents or direct threats” to the surrounding areas, events were canceled out of caution. Residents were advised to stay indoors.
The Chicago White Sox initially planned for a postgame fireworks show on Monday but announced plans to hold a moment of silence instead.
“The entire Chicago White Sox organization expresses our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the innocent victims of today’s horrific shooting and all of those who have been affected by this tragedy,” the team wrote in a statement.
Other major cities plan to continue with their Fourth of July events and celebrations.
As an extra precaution, more metal detectors will be added to Nashville’s “Let Freedom Sing!” Music City July 4th event, according to Butch Spyridon, CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corps.
“We are devastated by what occurred today in Illinois. Our hearts go out to the entire community of Highland Park,” Spyridon told USA TODAY on Monday. “We can only prepare so much and take every precaution possible, but we believe the enemy can’t win and we all need to carry on in the best possible manner.”
Contributing: Thao Nguyen