Alleged gunman in Highland Park parade massacre confessed, contemplated another attack in Madison, police say

·Senior Writer
·4 min read

The man accused of killing seven people and wounding dozens of others in a mass shooting at an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Ill., confessed to carrying out the massacre, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The suspect, Robert Crimo III of Highwood, Ill., did not enter a plea during his initial court appearance at Lake County Courthouse on Wednesday, a day after he was formally charged with seven counts of first-degree murder. If convicted, he would receive a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Crimo appeared in court via video. He was assigned a public defender and ordered held without bond. His next court appearance was set for July 28.

Robert
Robert "Bobby" E. Crimo III, 21, appears at his bond hearing via video from jail at Lake County Circuit Court in Waukegan, Ill., on Wednesday. (Antonio Perez/Pool via Reuters)

Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart told the court that during an interview with prosecutors, Crimo admitted to firing at the crowd from a rooftop.

“The statement was voluntary,” Rinehart told reporters outside the courthouse. “He was questioned in the Highland Park Police Department. He was read his Miranda warnings, offered attorneys, etc. He went into details about what he had done. He admitted to what he had done.” Rinehart would not speculate on a motive.

Chris Covelli, spokesperson for the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, said that after fleeing the scene in Highland Park, Crimo “seriously contemplated” carrying out another attack at a Fourth of July celebration he saw happening in Madison, Wis., but didn’t follow through.

“Indications are that he hadn’t put enough thought or research into it,” Covelli said.

Crimo was arrested during a traffic stop in the northern Chicago suburbs about eight hours after Monday’s massacre. Authorities recovered a rifle and 60 rounds of ammunition in his vehicle, Covelli said Wednesday.

Lake County Sheriff's Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli speaks to the media outside the courthouse in Waukegan, Ill., on Wednesday. (Photo by Max Herman/AFP via Getty Images)
Lake County Sheriff's Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli speaks to the media outside the courthouse in Waukegan, Ill., on Wednesday. (Photo by Max Herman/AFP via Getty Images)

According to police, Crimo climbed a fire escape ladder onto the roof of a business in downtown Highland Park and fired more than 70 rounds into the crowd using a high-powered rifle that was purchased legally. They said he was dressed as a woman to conceal his facial tattoos and help him escape.

Covelli said Tuesday that the alleged gunman had two prior interactions with police but was not placed on the “red flag” list that would have prevented him from buying the guns used in the attack.

The first incident was in April 2019, when police were called a week after a reported suicide attempt and mental health professionals spoke to Crimo and his family. The second incident was in September 2019, when a family member reported that Crimo was threatening to “kill everyone.” Police responded and confiscated 16 knives, a dagger and a sword.

Covelli said he was not sure if the weapons had ever been returned to Crimo but that the incident was reported to the Illinois State Police.

The state police said Tuesday that Crimo’s father had claimed at the time that the knives were his and were being stored in his son’s closet for safekeeping, and that they were returned to the father the same day.

A police officer walks through the scene of the mass shooting in Highland Park, Ill.
A police officer walks through the scene of the mass shooting in Highland Park, Ill., on Monday. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Over the course of approximately a year, encompassing parts of 2020 and 2021, Covelli said, Crimo legally purchased five firearms, including two rifles. He passed four background checks required to purchase those weapons, the Illinois State Police said.

Authorities believe Crimo had been planning the assault on the parade “for several weeks,” Covelli said. There is no information to suggest it was racially or religiously motivated.

NBC News reported that Crimo’s social media posts included “tributes to mass shootings.” He also performed as a rapper named Awake, whose music videos included depictions of mass murder.

Covelli said those posts and videos were not reported to the police before the attack.

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