Hours after gunfire interrupted the Highland Park, Illinois, July Fourth parade, killing seven people and wounding dozens more, police apprehended the man they believe was responsible.
Robert “Bobby” E. Crimo III, 21, faces seven charges of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting, which authorities said he allegedly carried out by climbing onto the rooftop of a nearby business and opening fire minutes after the parade started, sending paradegoers and participants running for safety.
A judge on Wednesday ordered him held without bond in a virtual hearing where a Lake County assistant state’s attorney alleged Crimo confessed to firing on the crowd in a voluntary statement to law enforcement. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for July 28.
Investigators believe the suspect planned the attack for weeks, Chris Covelli, spokesperson for the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, said at one of several news conferences Tuesday. The suspect dressed in women’s clothing to help conceal his identity, Covelli said, blended in with the crowds as they fled the area, and went to his mother’s house.
Law enforcement has yet to establish a motive, and Covelli declined to address a potential motive again Wednesday, saying only that Crimo “had some type of affinity towards the number four and seven and inverse was 7/4,” the date of July Fourth.
Covelli previously said there has been no information to suggest the attack was “racially motivated, motivated by religion or any other protected status.” There is no indication anyone else was involved, Covelli said.
The suspect was taken into custody soon after police publicly identified him Monday as a “person of interest,” whom the FBI said was “being sought for his alleged involvement in the shooting of multiple individuals” at Highland Park’s Independence Day parade.
The suspect took his mother’s vehicle, and a member of the community saw him, Covelli said. That individual called 911, and then North Chicago police conducted a traffic stop and took him into custody.
Crimo faces a sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted, Assistant State’s Attorney Ben Dillon said in Wednesday’s hearing. But the suspect faces “many more charges” in addition to the seven first-degree murder charges, Eric Rinehart, state’s attorney for Lake County, said in a news conference, suggesting other potential charges include attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm.
Federal charges are also a possibility, FBI Director Christopher Wray said.
“If the facts gathered end up supporting a federal prosecution, then we will work with the US Attorney’s office to pursue prosecution on the federal side as well,” Wray said at an event in London. The director also noted the bureau is helping local and state authorities with the crime scene and evidence collection.
Attorney Thomas Durkin previously confirmed to CNN he was representing Crimo, but he said in court Wednesday he would not, citing a potential conflict of interest.
Attorney Steve Greenberg is representing Crimo’s parents, he said Tuesday, and released a statement attributed to them.
“We are all mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and this is a terrible tragedy for many families, the victims, the paradegoers, the community, and our own,” the statement says. “Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go out to everybody.”
Here’s what we know about the suspect:
He legally obtained the weapon used, officials say
The suspect used a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle to carry out the shooting, Dillon, the assistant state’s attorney, said at Wednesday’s bond hearing.
According to Dillon, Crimo told investigators that when he climbed on top of the roof, he looked through the weapon’s sights and opened fire at people across the street, emptying two 30-round magazines before loading the weapon with a third and continuing to fire.
Surveillance video from the scene showed a person running west with a black bag over the shoulder immediately after the shooting, Dillon said Wednesday. While the individual was running, an object wrapped in cloth fell onto the pavement. The subject left the object and continued running.
It turned out to be the Smith & Wesson, per Dillon. And on the rooftop, investigators found the three magazines and 83 spent shell casings.
The suspect legally purchased the weapon he used in Monday’s shooting, Covelli said Tuesday, describing it as a “high-powered rifle” that shot high-velocity rounds. The weapon, which he described as “similar to an AR-15,” was purchased locally, Covelli said, within the Chicagoland area. There is no indication the weapon was modified, he said.
Crimo also legally purchased a second rifle found in his vehicle at the time he was apprehended, as well as other guns recovered from his home, which Covelli described as pistols.
Between June 2020 and September 2021, Crimo passed four background checks while purchasing firearms. Those background checks went through the Firearms Transaction Inquiry Program (FTIP), which includes the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, state police said in their statement.
At the time, the only criminal offense included in Crimo’s history was a January 2016 ordinance violation for possession of tobacco, and no mental health prohibiter reports were submitted to state police by health care facilities or personnel, police said.
Police in Highwood – the suspect’s hometown, just outside Highland Park – had no prior crime-related interactions with Crimo, according to Chief Dave Wentz.
The only contact the department had with Crimo involved a noncriminal incident where Crimo was present when he was a juvenile, Wentz said.
“We literally have nothing on him,” Wentz said. “He was not potentially involved in anything.”
Police took knives from home after Crimo said he would kill people
But Crimo did have past interactions with Highland Park Police.
In April 2019, local police had gone to the family home after receiving a report Crimo had tried to take his own life using a machete a week prior, according to a police report of the well-being check visit.
Officers spoke with him, and his parents and were told mental health professionals were handling the matter, the report shows.
Then, in September 2019, Highland Park Police went to Crimo’s home after a family member reported that he had said he was going to kill everyone, according to another police report.
“The threat was directed at family inside of the home,” Covelli noted.
Police confiscated a collection of bladed items – 16 knives, a dagger and a “Samurai type blade” that were in Crimo’s closet. Later that afternoon, the father went to the police station and picked up the collection and told authorities it belonged to him, according to the police report.
No arrests were made during that incident because there were no signed complaints against Crimo. At the time, involuntary commitment wasn’t an option, Covelli said.
Local police submitted a “Clear and Present Danger” report about the visit to the Illinois State Police, the police report shows. State police said in that report Crimo had said he didn’t intend on harming himself or others when police questioned him at the time.
State Police Master Sgt. Delilah Garcia said they looked at whether Crimo had a firearm owner’s identification (FOID) card that should have been revoked, but he had no card.
In a news release, Illinois State Police officials said Crimo in December 2019 applied for a FOID card that was sponsored by his father.
“The subject was under 21 (he was 19) and the application was sponsored by the subject’s father. Therefore, at the time of FOID application review in January of 2020, there was insufficient basis to establish a clear and present danger and deny the FOID application,” state police said.
Covelli said later that the suspect bought five guns, including two rifles, after the September visit from police.
He ‘contemplated’ a second attack
After fleeing the scene of the parade shooting, Crimo drove to Madison, Wisconsin, where he “seriously contemplated” carrying out another attack with the firearm he had in his car at the time, a Kel-Tec SUB200, Covelli said Wednesday.
The shooter had approximately 60 rounds of ammunition in his car, Covelli said.
“Investigators did develop some information that it appears when he drove to Madison, he was driving around, however, he did see a celebration that was occurring in Madison, and he seriously contemplated using the firearm he had in his vehicle to commit another shooting in Madison,” he said.
“We don’t have information to suggest he planned to drive to Madison initially to commit another attack, Covelli added. “We do believe he was driving around following the first attack and saw the celebration.”
But the suspect did not carry out the attack, Covelli added, saying, “Indications are that he hadn’t put enough thought or research into it.”
He posted violent imagery online
The suspected shooter posted music on several major streaming platforms under the pseudonym Awake the Rapper, and he apparently made and posted music videos online featuring ominous lyrics and animated scenes of gun violence.
In one video entitled “Are you Awake,” a cartoon animation of a stick-figure shooter resembling the suspect’s appearance is seen wearing tactical gear and carrying out an attack with a rifle. Crimo, seen with multicolored hair and face tattoos, narrates, “I need to just do it. It is my destiny.”
In another video entitled “Toy Soldier,” a similar stick-figure resembling the suspect is depicted lying face down on the floor in a pool of his own blood, surrounded by police officers with their guns drawn.
Law enforcement is reviewing the videos posted online, Covelli said at Tuesday’s news conference, noting police had not previously been made aware of them. “We’ll look at them and see what they reveal.”
Several of the suspect’s online postings “reflected a plan and a desire to commit carnage for a long time in advance,” Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said in an interview with NBC’s Hoda Kotb on “Today.”
“And it’s one of those things where you step back and you say, ‘What happened?’ How did somebody become this angry and hateful,” she said, “to then take it out on innocent people who literally were just having a family day out?”
YouTube and Spotify removed content tied to the suspect from their platforms, the companies confirmed Tuesday. They declined to answer questions about whether the content had been flagged or previously reported for violations of their respective terms of service. The companies also declined to say precisely when they removed the suspect’s content.
CNN is seeking comment from Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal and Pandora for similar questions, but the companies have not yet responded.
His uncle says he saw no warning signs
Mayor Rotering knew the suspect when she was his Cub Scout pack leader, she said, telling CNN, “Many years ago, he was just a little boy, a quiet little boy that I knew.”
“It breaks my heart. I see this picture and through the tattoos, I see the little boy,” she said. “I don’t know what got him to this point.”
The suspect’s uncle, Paul A. Crimo, was “heartbroken” to learn his nephew was believed to be responsible for Monday’s shooting, telling CNN,” There were no signs that I saw that would make him do this.”
The suspect lived in an apartment behind a house in Highwood, owned by his father, said Paul Crimo, who also lives at the house. He last saw his nephew Sunday evening, he said, sitting on a recliner in the house and looking on his computer.
“Everything was as normal,” he said.
To Paul Crimo’s knowledge, his nephew did not have a job, he told CNN, though he worked at Panera Bread before the Covid-19 pandemic. Paul Crimo said he had never seen the suspect engage in violence or worrisome behavior. He didn’t know of his nephew’s political views, either, describing him as a “quiet” person.
“He’s usually on his own. He’s a lonely, quiet person. He keeps everything to himself.”
The suspect’s father and Paul Crimo’s brother, Robert Crimo Jr., previously ran for mayor, he said. “We are good people here, and to have this is devastating.”
“I’m so heartbroken for all the families who lost their lives,” Paul Crimo said.
CNN’s Taylor Romine, Joe Sutton, Jeff Winter, Yahya Abou-Ghazala, David Williams, Rebekah Riess, Brian Fung, Ashley Killough, Curt Devine and Aya Elamroussi contributed to this report.