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Editor’s note: For more of the RoundTable’s coverage, please see our photo essay of Evanstonians reacting to the shooting, our story on the eyewitness accounts of the shooting and our story on the volunteers who had to shut down today’s parade. 

It was supposed to be a day of celebrating being together after years of separation during the pandemic.

Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesperson Christopher Covelli speaks to reporters during a press conference shortly after 3 p.m. on July 4. Credit: Alex Harrison

But Monday, the Fourth of July, became a long day of sorrow, fear, anticipation and unexplained violence as a shooter wielding a a high powered rifle, aimed down from a rooftop into a happy crowd gathered to reignite an annual short but sweet ritual, the Highland Park parade.

The Highland Park parade stepped off at about 10 a.m. Ten minutes into it, the shooting started. It evolved into a nearly nine-hour manhunt that drew in local, state, county and federal law enforcement. In the end, we found out:

  • how many people were killed – a total of six,
  • how many people were injured by gunshots – about 36 and
  • how many people were suspected of carrying out the shooting – one. Officials named in a late afternoon news conference a “a person of interest,” 22-year-old Robert E. “Bobby” Crimo III, who was later arrested just before 7 p.m. in Lake Forest.

But the day began, with eager residents heading to the parade. Melanie Shanks and her husband, Dean Butterman, Highland Park residents for 29 years, biked downtown. Both told the RoundTable, it was a classic “picture-perfect” parade with nice weather, mariachi and klezmer bands as well as attendees in high spirits as “all your typical floats” started to pass. People were throwing out candy to kids, too.

“We were just about to sit down when all of a sudden we heard rapid fire bam-bam- bam-bam,” Butterman said. “People scattering in all directions. And it wasn’t a stampede or anything. People were just running from the shots.”

The suspected shooter, apparently ran too. Police said he had climbed a building ladder to a downtown building and shot down on the crowd, leaving what police called “a high-powered rifle” behind. He also left wounded and dying lying on the street and apparently fired with no regard for age, as at least one child was known to be taken to the hospital in critical condition.

The North Shore response

Surrounding towns and cities, including Evanston said there were “acting out of an abundance of caution” and canceled the Fourth of July parade, fireworks and all other holiday activities. Evanston even closed the lakefront beaches.

Robert “Bobby” Crimo III. Credit: Highland Park Police Department

Many people stayed indoors as they had no idea who was on the loose and what was his motive. Crimo, who is from the area, was believed to be driving a 2010 silver Honda Fit with Illinois license plate DM80653, according to law enforcement

According to the Highland Park Police Department, officers in north Chicago first identified Crimo’s vehicle, and multiple agencies pursued him before making an arrest. Officials said law enforcement then took Crimo into custody “without incident.”

About a year ago, Crimo posted a series of videos on his YouTube channel, including one that featured footage of downtown Highland Park with the sound of sirens blaring in the background and multiple others that showed stick figures holding rifles.

Police, who held a number of news conferences throughout the day Monday, said once Crimo was captured that they were not likely to hold another until Tuesday, July 5.

Evanston’s reaction

Regarding local safety, Evanston Police Department Sgt. Ken Carter said in a statement to the RoundTable: “At this time, there have been no incidents or direct threats to Evanston. The Evanston Police Department encourages citizens to take safety precautions, to stay vigilant, and to call 911 if they see anything suspicious. Our thoughts are with our neighbors in Highland Park. Our prayers and heartfelt condolences to all those affected by this horrific tragedy.”

“A horrific tragedy took place in Highland Park this morning – my heart goes out to those who lost loved ones, to those who were injured, and all who were affected by this awful act,” said Mayor Daniel Biss in a statement.

Evanston officials moved forward on cancellation about an hour after the mass shooting, said Richard Eddington, the city’s Interim Police Chief, earlier today. Other suburbs that cancelled included, Glenview, Deerfield, Glencoe, Lincolnshire, Libertyville, Buffalo Grove, Waukegan and Oak Park.

At that early point, the difficulty facing decision makers, including the police and the mayor’s and city manager’s office, was that “we had maximum exposure and little to no intelligence,” he said. So, “out of an abundance of caution, we shut down the parade, the fireworks and the beaches,” he said.

“We  had no information whether it was a shooter with an accomplice, a shooter that had the association of a larger group,” he said.

Since then, “I think that they [law enforcement officials] are making significant strides in the identification of the offender,” he said, expressing hope that a law-enforcement-driven resolution would come soon.

In the early hours after the shooting

The crime scene was extremely large, police said. And long after the person of interest was in custody, teams were still on the street, collecting evidence.

A press staging area set up outside the Highland Park Fire Department headquarters. Credit: Alex Harrison

A security perimeter in Highland Park was set up from Green Bay Road to Laurel Avenue to St. Johns Avenue to Elm Place, said Highland Park Police Commander Chris O’Neill. He and other officials also said many people were taken by ambulance to Highland Park Hospital. Others were transported to Evanston Hospital and Lake Forest Hospital and still other victims, came into a hospital on their own.

At the 12:55 p.m. press conference, O’Neill described the shooter as a “male, white, 18 to 20 years old, small build, with long black hair and a white or blue T-shirt.” O’Neill decried the “horrific, senseless, random act of violence.” Authorities have yet to identify a motive for the shooting.

According to video obtained by CBS News Chicago, SWAT teams armed with shields and rifles were going door-to-door in Highland Park in search of the suspect.

During a press conference with doctors and nurses outside Highland Park Hospital, NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Medical Director of Immediate Care Medicine Dr. Brigham Temple said 25 of the 26 injured victims treated at the hospital had gunshot wounds. Nineteen of those 25 people were treated and discharged, while those who remained were in more serious condition, Temple said.

At least one of those victims was transported to Evanston Hospital for surgery. Those who received treatment at Highland Park Hospital ranged in age from 8 to 85, and “four or five” of the injured were children, Temple said.

Lake County Major Crime Task Force public information officer Christopher Covelli said at a 2:20 p.m. news conference said “more than 100” law-enforcement officers from the Lake County task force, Highland Park police, the FBI as well as Illinois State Police state police were collaborating in the investigation and searching for the suspect. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was investigating where the rifle was bought and by whom, law enforcement officials said.

Covelli said social media was being “combed” for clues to the crime.

“We heard loud reports, which we perceived as gunfire,” Covelli said, describing the scene immediately after the first shots were fired. “Highland Park police units immediately ran to the plaza area to locate and identify the source of the noise and the gunshots.

“We immediately identified that people were down, we had numerous people injured and shot. We communicated that information with our police dispatch, coordinated a medical response with the fire departments who began setting up an inner and outer perimeter and also requested additional outside resources.”

He added that “a very large conglomerate of law enforcement [are] working together hand in hand. The Lake County Major Crime Task Force and the FBI are leading the criminal investigation into this along with Highland Park Police.”

Later, Covelli said that “at this time” there was no indication there was more than one shooter.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a statement Monday afternoon saying, “Today I ask all Illinoisans to pray for the families who have been devastated by the evil unleashed this morning in Highland Park, for those who have lost loved ones and for those who have been injured. I also ask that we all pray for our first responders at all levels of government who are actively working to bring the suspect into custody, and whose bravery undoubtedly saved innocent lives on the scene.

“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. There are no words for the kind of evil that robs our neighbors of their hopes, their dreams, their futures. There are no words I can offer to lift the pain of those they leave behind. Please know that our state grieves with you, that [my wife] and I grieve with you. 

“But grief will not bring the victims back, and prayers alone will not put a stop to the terror of rampant gun violence in our country. 

“I will stand firm with Illinoisans and Americans: we must – and we will – end this plague of gun violence.”

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, center at the podium, and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, right, speak to the media in Highland Park on Monday afternoon. Credit: Alex Harrison

President Joe Biden also issued a statement: “Jill and I are shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day. 

“As always, we are grateful for the first responders and law enforcement on the scene. I have spoken to Governor Pritzker and [Highland Park] Mayor [Nancy] Rotering, and have offered the full support of the federal government to their communities.

“I also urged federal law enforcement to assist in the urgent search for the shooter, who remains at large at this time. Members of the community should follow guidance from leadership on the ground, and I will monitor closely as we learn more about those whose lives have been lost and pray for those who are in the hospital with grievous injuries.  

“I recently signed the first major bipartisan gun reform legislation in almost thirty years into law, which includes actions that will save lives. But there is much more work to do, and I’m not going to give up fighting the epidemic of gun violence.”

Security expert Phil Andrew pointed out today on WBBM-TV that there are more than 45,000 firearms deaths a year in the U.S., and it is the leading cause of death among children. “The United States is the only country in the world that tolerates this level of violence.”

Police still are asking for anyone with information about the shooting, including cell phone images or videos as well as security videos from today and early, to call 1-800-CALL FBI (1-800-225-5324).

Les Jacobson

Les is a longtime Evanstonian and RoundTable writer and editor. He won a Chicago Newspaper Guild best feature story award in 1975 for a story on elderly suicide and most recently three consecutive Northern...

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

Susy Schultz

Susy Schultz is the editor of the Evanston Roundtable. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and is the former president of Public Narrative, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching journalists and...

Alex Harrison

Alex Harrison joins the RoundTable for the summer in between his undergraduate and graduate studies at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.

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  1. This kid’s parents were similar to those of Laurie Dann, who was first to hit news bigtime for a school shooting in 1988.. she had three guns with known history of mental issues. Just found out she was born in Glencoe, IL which is the town bordering south end of Highland Park. The school where she did the shooting (8 shot, 1 died) was 6 miles from the HP crime scene. This stuff has gone full circle, except the weapons shooters use today can do a LOT more damage and a LOT faster with 30-round magazines.

  2. I have been out of town while this went on, and it was a strange feeling to be in a place while life went on in a patriotic jolly way while my friends back home were locked down and scared. This incident reminds me of being locked down in elementary school after the Laurie Dann shooting. Kids’ innocence is so precious and fleeting. My son is scared to come home now.

    1. Just read your comment after writing mine about LD, and see you were there/in the area when Laurie Dann was shooting. There are a lot of parallels between the two cases. The primary is someone being able/allowed to buy guns when there were CLEAR signs of mental illness… and the likelihood of harming others (this kid threatened his family, and cops didn’t accept that Dann stabbed her husband with an ice pick).

  3. Move the parades, fireworks and festivities to Labor Day weekend and celebrate the workers who built the country.

  4. Can we assume that Evanston Police would not have urged cancellation of the parade and fireworks if the shooter in Highland Park had been caught or killed in a timely manner?
    Obviously the warning went out to other Northshore municipalities that the shooter was on the loose, and several towns cancelled celebrations out of the utmost in safety. Really sad to impact such an important patriotic day in the America that is enjoyed by so many. Feel most sorry for the kids, who seem to delight in the day. Along with the many volunteers who built floats, all the year-long planning by Evanston July 4th Celebration Association and their dedicated volunteers , and veterans and seniors whose number of July 4th’s in the future are more limited. Happy Birthday America, despite this unfortunate incident in Highland Park.

  5. I am sick to my stomach. I am also grateful to the EPD officers for keeping us safe. I was at South Beach at about 1:45 when two officers closed the beach. I pray for all those injured and the families of those killed.

  6. Thank you RoundTable for your quick and thoughtful coverage of this awful event and impact on our July 4 festivities.