'We seek justice': Suspect charged with 7 murders as police detail troubling past

  • Christopher Covelli of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force speaks during a news conference Tuesday to provide updates on the mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade Monday in Highland Park.

      Christopher Covelli of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force speaks during a news conference Tuesday to provide updates on the mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade Monday in Highland Park. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Robert E. Crimo III

    Robert E. Crimo III

  • Authorities say this is Highland Park shooting suspect Robert Crimo III dressed in women's clothes to conceal his identity while fleeing the scene Monday.

    Authorities say this is Highland Park shooting suspect Robert Crimo III dressed in women's clothes to conceal his identity while fleeing the scene Monday. Courtesy of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force

  • Members of an FBI evidence response team walk near the scene of Monday's mass shooting during the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park.

      Members of an FBI evidence response team walk near the scene of Monday's mass shooting during the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • A woman who came to retrieve a child car carrier gets help moving it past police tape Tuesday, the day after the mass shooting at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park.

      A woman who came to retrieve a child car carrier gets help moving it past police tape Tuesday, the day after the mass shooting at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering speaks during a new conference Tuesday updating the public about Monday's mass shooting at the city's Independence Day parade.

      Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering speaks during a new conference Tuesday updating the public about Monday's mass shooting at the city's Independence Day parade. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • A day after a rooftop gunman opened fire on spectators at an Independence Day parade in downtown Highland Park, killing seven and injuring dozens more, police investigators continue to search for a motive.

      A day after a rooftop gunman opened fire on spectators at an Independence Day parade in downtown Highland Park, killing seven and injuring dozens more, police investigators continue to search for a motive. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/5/2022 8:40 PM

As the death toll from Monday's mass shooting at Highland Park's Independence Day parade rose to seven Tuesday, authorities announced charges that could put the shooting's suspect in prison for life and disclosed new details about the massacre and the suspect's troubled history.

Robert Crimo III, 21, of Highwood now faces seven counts of first-degree murder -- one for each victim -- and dozens of additional charges are forthcoming, Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart announced Tuesday.

 

"We must do everything possible to make sure the horror that marked these streets, that echoed from these buildings, never happens again," Rinehart said Tuesday during a news conference just steps from the epicenter of the shooting.

The suspect, who authorities say carried out the shooting dressed as a woman to conceal his identity and hide his distinct tattoos, is expected to make an initial court appearance Wednesday. Rinehart said that he will ask that the suspect be ordered held without bail.

"The loss of life and the devastating injuries and the overwhelming psychological trauma demand we seek justice and we take broader action to protect life," Rinehart said.

Six of the seven paradegoers killed were identified Tuesday as Katherine Goldstein, 64, of Highland Park; Irina McCarthy, 35, of Highland Park; Kevin McCarthy, 37, of Highland Park; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63, of Highland Park; Stephen Straus, 88, of Highland Park; and Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78, of Morelos, Mexico.

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The identity of the seventh victim, who died Tuesday at a hospital outside of Lake County, has not been publicly disclosed.

In addition to those slain, at least 30 others suffered gunshot wounds when a gunman armed with a high-powered rifle opened fire at about 10:15 a.m. Monday from a rooftop position along the parade route, spraying 70 bullets into the crowd.

It appears the suspect planned the attack for weeks, though his motive remains unclear at this time, said Deputy Chief Chris Covelli, spokesman for the Lake County Major Crime Task force. There is no evidence of a racial or religious intent, and it appears the shooter acted alone, Covelli said.

The shooter's weapon was an "AR-15-style" rifle that was purchased legally in the Chicago area, Covelli said.

After the shooting, authorities say, the suspect descended from the rooftop, leaving the rifle near the scene, and blended in with the fleeing crowd. The suspect then walked to his mother's home nearby, Covelli said. Cellphone and surveillance video provided by the public helped identify the suspect dressed as a woman.

"The community has been absolutely terrific in providing information," Covelli said.

Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were able to quickly trace the weapon, linking it to the suspect, authorities said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

After stopping at his mother's, where he gave no indication of involvement in the shooting, the suspect drove off in a 2010 Honda Fit, Covelli said. He drove to the Madison, Wisconsin, area before returning to Illinois. It was then that an alert citizen spotted the vehicle along Route 41 in North Chicago and called 911. Police responded, and after a brief pursuit, the suspect was taken into custody at Route 41 and Westleigh Road in Lake Forest.

A second rifle -- also purchased legally -- was found in the car, and more firearms were recovered at a Highwood home where the suspect was living, Covelli said.

Authorities Tuesday detailed two prior contacts law enforcement had with the suspect, both in 2019. They include an incident in September of that year when a family member reported he was going to "kill them all," Covelli said.

Highland Park police responded and confiscated 16 knives, a sword and a dagger, but no firearms were found in his possession. Covelli said family members would not sign a complaint against him, so there was no probable cause for arrest, but Illinois State Police were notified of the incident.

In a statement released Tuesday evening, state police confirmed receiving a "Clear and Present Danger" report on the suspect from the Highland Park Police Department. At that time, he did not have a Firearm Owners Identification card to revoke or a pending application to deny, state police said, and his family did not provide information on threats or mental health that would have warranted additional action, so state police involvement ended, the statement said.

Two months later, state police said, the suspect applied for a FOID card. Because he was under 21, the application was sponsored by his father. State police said that as a result, when the FOID application was reviewed in January 2020, there was insufficient basis to deny it.

In a later statement, state police said the suspect passed four background checks when purchasing firearms, on June 9, July 18 and July 31, 2020, and Sept. 20, 2021. The only offense included on his criminal history was an ordinance violation in January 2016 for possession of tobacco, according to state police.

The suspect's family issued a statement through prominent Chicago attorney Steve Greenberg, who said they had retained his firm's services.

"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 reads. "Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go out to everybody."

Covelli said Tuesday police had not been made aware of previous social media postings by the suspect, which have been described as troubling, but investigators are reviewing those now. Asked whether they would have been investigated had police been tipped off earlier, Covelli replied, "Absolutely."

"Law enforcement is going to do everything it can to keep the community safe, but if we don't know about it, it's hard to investigate," he said.

A spokesman for NorthShore University HealthSystem hospitals said the system had treated 39 victims who arrived by either ambulance or other means Monday.

Nine remained hospitalized Tuesday in the system, which includes Evanston, Glenbrook, Highland Park and Skokie hospitals. They range in age from 14 to their 70s. Four were in good condition; another four were stable; and one patient, a 69-year old man, was in critical condition at Evanston Hospital with a gunshot wound.

One patient, an 8-year old boy, was taken to University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital.

Covelli said investigators are asking anyone with firsthand information about the suspect or his actions to contact them. They're especially eager to hear from a female witness they believe saw the suspect drop an item, believed to be the rifle used in the shooting, into a red blanket behind the business Ross's at 625 Central Ave. in Highland Park, Covelli said.

Video footage also is being sought as investigators continue to piece together a timeline of Monday's events. Those with information and evidence are urged to call (800) CALL-FBI.

• Daily Herald staff writer Doug T. Graham contributed to this report.

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