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Highland Park suspect confessed to the July 4th shooting, prosecutors say

An American flag flies at half-staff on Wednesday near a memorial for the victims of a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill.
Jim Vondruska
Getty Images
An American flag flies at half-staff on Wednesday near a memorial for the victims of a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill.

Updated July 6, 2022 at 1:22 PM ET

The 21-year-old charged with murdering seven people at a Fourth of July parade in suburban Illinois confessed to the shooting after he was taken into custody, prosecutors say.

In a court hearing Wednesday, prosecutors laid out the first of the voluminous evidence they say shows Robert Crimo III carried out the shooting in Highland Park — including a voluntary statement given to police in which Crimo confessed to the shooting.

Crimo, who is represented by a public defender, will be held without bail.

No motive has been determined so far, authorities say.

Wednesday's court hearing followed a day of revelations about Crimo's previous encounters with police — and how, despite them, he had passed four background checks to legally purchase five guns, including the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 semiautomatic rifle used in the shooting.

In addition to the seven people killed in Monday's shooting, dozens more were wounded. So far, Crimo has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder. Prosecutors say they intend to file more charges related to the injured.

"These are just the first of many charges that will be filed against Mr. Crimo. I want to emphasize that. There will be more charges," said Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart.

The evidence includes a confession, prosecutors say

During Wednesday's hearing, prosecutors outlined the early evidence against Crimo, including multiple eyewitness accounts, cell phone photos and video, surveillance footage and physical evidence.

The shooting began at 10:14 a.m. local time, soon after the parade began. Crimo was on a rooftop overlooking the parade route, Assistant State's Attorney Ben Dillon said, where a witness saw him "scanning the crowd with a gun and saw muzzle flashes come from the roof."

Afterward, surveillance video is said to have captured the suspect running from the scene with a bag slung over his shoulder.

As he ran, Dillon said, an object wrapped in cloth fell from the bag into the alley, where it was later recovered by police — inside was a Smith and Wesson M&P 15, legally purchased by Crimo in 2020. On the roof, police found three magazines and 83 spent shell casings.

After Crimo was taken into custody Monday night, prosecutors said, he gave a voluntary statement to police confessing to the shooting and identified himself on surveillance video.

Crimo will be represented by Gregory Ticsay, a Lake County public defender. The next court date is late July with arraignment likely in August, Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart said following the hearing.

Crimo's parents have retained their own defense lawyer, Steve Greenberg, who said Wednesday that they were being "1000%" cooperative with law enforcement.

"The parents share everyone's desire to figure out everything that went wrong so that this doesn't happen again, to more innocent people, children, and families," Greenberg wrote on Twitter.

The suspect was able to buy guns despite a 'clear and present danger' report

On Tuesday, Lake County authorities revealed that Crimo had two encounters with local police in 2019, before he legally obtained his weapons.

The first call, in April 2019, was a report that he had attempted suicide.

Then, in September 2019, a family member called Highland Park police to report that Crimo "said he was going to kill everyone" and that he had a collection of knives, Sgt. Christopher Covelli of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said at a press conference Tuesday.

Highland Park police confiscated 16 knives, a dagger and a sword from Crimo's home – but ultimately did not arrest Crimo, Covelli said, in part because none of his family were willing to sign complaints.

Afterward, Highland Park police notified Illinois State Police of the incident in a "clear and present danger" report.

But because Crimo did not then have a FOID card – a firearm owner's identification card that is issued by Illinois State Police and required for gun ownership – nor an application to deny, the state police said, their "involvement with the matter was concluded."

Three months later, Crimo, then 19, applied for a FOID card. His application was sponsored by his father, and was approved by state police in January 2020.

Later that year, Crimo passed three background checks to purchase guns, authorities said. He passed a fourth check on Sept. 20, 2021, his 21st birthday.

In a second statement released late Tuesday, Illinois State Police addressed questions about why the "clear and present danger" report did not prevent Crimo from obtaining a FOID card just four months later.

"The report indicates that when police went to the home and asked the individual if he felt like harming himself or others, he responded no," the agency said. "No one, including family, was willing to move forward on a complaint nor did they subsequently provide information on threats or mental health that would have allowed law enforcement to take additional action."

Additionally, Crimo's father claimed the knives were his, and that they were being stored in his son's closet "for safekeeping," police said. Highland Park police returned the knives to Crimo's father later that afternoon.

Details about the victims emerge

Authorities released the names of six victims Tuesday: Katherine Goldstein, 64; Irina McCarthy, 35; Kevin McCarthy, 37; Stephen Strauss, 88; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63; and Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78. On Wednesday, officials named the seventh victim, Eduardo Uvaldo, 69.

Six were from Highland Park or nearby, authorities said. Toledo-Zaragoza was from Morelos, Mexico, and was on a months-long family visit to Highland Park, where two of his daughters live with their families. "We're having a hard time accepting that our father is no longer with us," said Josefina Toledo.

Irina and Kevin McCarthys were parents to a 2-year-old, Aiden, who survived the shooting and was later united with grandparents. "At two years old, Aiden is left in the unthinkable position; to grow up without his parents," wrote Irina Colon on a GoFundMe fundraiser for the family that has already raised more than $2 million.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan
Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.