GOP congressional candidate blames Highland Park mayor for parade shooting

In a tweet Wednesday, the Republican candidate for the 10th Congressional District seat called Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering negligent in the deaths of seven people who were shot during the city's Independence Day parade.

Joseph Severino of Lake Forest criticized Rotering for not doing more to prevent the 21-year-old Highwood man charged with carrying out the mass shooting from having access to firearms under the state's red-flag law.

"Rotering is the reason the shooting occurred," Severino's tweet reads. "She was negligent in ensuring that steps were made to confiscate the gun by court order after awareness of the red flag."

The accused is charged with of opening fire from a rooftop during the parade, injuring more than 50 people and killing Kevin McCarthy, 37, and Irina McCarthy, 35; Katherine Goldstein, 64; Stephen Straus, 88; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63; Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78; and Eduardo Uvaldo, 69.

Severino is challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider for the 10th District seat, which represents parts of Cook, Lake and McHenry counties, including Highland Park.

Schneider, a Highland Park resident who was at the parade, criticized Severino's tweet.

"The entire Highland Park community is justifiably proud of Mayor Rotering's leadership through their darkest hour," he wrote. "The police and firefighters who helped that day are heroes. I am appalled that anyone would spread misinformation about the shooting and their good work, but even more disgusted by someone doing so for political gain."

Severino's criticism stems from revelations that in 2019 police responded to the shooting suspect's home twice, once after he reportedly threatened suicide and later after he was alleged to have threatened family members. On the second occasion, police seized 16 knives, a sword and dagger from the home.

Although that prompted police to send a "clear and present danger" report to Illinois State Police, the agency later approved a firearm license application from him.

According to the 2019 Firearms Restraining Order Act, a family member, intimate partner or roommate or a law enforcement officer who believes an individual "poses a danger of causing personal injury to himself, herself, or another" by having a fireman can petition a court for a firearm restraining order to prohibit the individual from possessing a firearm.

The law does not list elected officials among those who may request such an order.

But Severino said the mayor and police had "preliminary information about the shooter and didn't exercise to the full extent of their authority" efforts to prevent the tragedy from occurring.

"Was she negligent in not understanding what was going on around her? Or was she negligent in the way she managed ancillary services and public agencies," said Severino, claiming the mayor is "either directly or indirectly responsible."

Rotering and Highland Park City Manager Ghida Neukirch declined to comment on Severino's remarks.

Schneider campaign manager Matt Fried called Severino's tweet disgusting and accused him of spreading misinformation.

"If he had a shred of decency, he would apologize to Mayor Rotering and the families of the victims whose memories he has sullied," Fried wrote, adding "the bottom line is this: Easy access to dangerous assault weapons and our nation's failed mental health care systems are contributing to the proliferation of monsters like the one who attacked Highland Park on July 4."

• Daily Herald wire services contributed to this report.

  Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering speaks during a news conference July 5, one day after a gunman opened fire during the city's Independence Day parade. Brian Hill/
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