Highland Park mass shooting suspect was dressed in woman's clothing, planned attack for weeks
Highland Park mass shooting suspect was dressed in woman’s clothing, planned attack for weeks
22-year-old Robert “Bobby E. Crimo III. Images credit: Twitter, Facebook.

Annie Sweeney, Jake Sheridan, Madeline Buckley and Tracy Swartz

Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — The man suspected of killing at least six people and injuring more than 30 others Monday morning during a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park allegedly planned the attack for several weeks before he climbed a fire escape ladder and fired on the crowd from the roof of a building, authorities said at a news conference Tuesday.

The suspect, Robert “Bobby” E. Crimo III, 21, dressed as a woman in order to evade detection, according to Chris Covelli, a spokesman with the Lake County Major Crime Task Force. After firing more than 70 rounds, Crimo exited the roof, dropped the rifle, slipped into the crowd and went to his mother’s house, he said.

“Throughout the past 24 hours, investigators have spoken with numerous witnesses, some of the survivors, have had the opportunity to review numerous video clips from cellphones and fixed cameras and conducted a number of other follow-up investigations,” Covelli said.

Investigators haven’t determined a motive, though Covelli said investigators have been in “in discussions” with Crimo. No one else appears to have been involved in the shooting.

A Lake County police officer walks down Central Avenue on July 4, 2022, after a shooter fired on the northern suburb s Fourth of July parade. At least six people were killed and at least two dozen injured.

The gun that was used in the attack was purchased legally in Illinois by Crimo, authorities said.

During the Tuesday morning news conference, law enforcement officials offered further details about the attack and the ensuing investigation.

“He brought a high-powered rifle to this parade. He accessed the roof of a business via a fire escape ladder and began opening fire on the innocent Independence Day celebration goers,” Covelli said.

Investigators believe Crimo disguised himself as a woman in order to hide his facial tattoos and aid in his escape from the scene, according to Covelli.

After escaping, Crimo walked to his mother’s house and borrowed her vehicle, Covelli said. There is no indication he shared anything about the alleged shooting with his mother.

Following a police alert for the vehicle, an “alert member of community” saw it and called 911.

After he was apprehended, officers found another rifle in the vehicle, Covelli said, which also appeared to have been legally purchased by Crimo. Other weapons were found in his Highwood home.

Crimo remains in custody and has not yet been charged.

Investigators are asking members of the community to come forward with any video they may have of Crimo at the parade.

“The community has been absolutely terrific as it comes to reporting information they may have, things they may have witnessed, turning over video,” Covelli said.

Details on the original purchase of the weapon came from an expedited trace conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in the wake of the shooting. The weapon has been described by authorities as “high powered.”

The expedited trace provided a “major lead” to investigators, according to Covelli.

He also told the Chicago Tribune that the FBI is sending in an expert team to reconstruct the shooting, which means items left along the parade route will likely remain for several days.

Authorities continued to investigate Tuesday after a gunman opened fire on a Fourth of July parade in north suburban Highland Park on Monday, sending crowds of people fleeing from the parade route, leaving behind chairs, blankets, strollers and other remnants from the holiday celebration.

The victims ranged in age from 8 to 85. None of those killed were children, authorities said.

Parade attendees described hearing a barrage of bullets while watching floats and marchers on the street. People grabbed children and ran, taking cover in nearby shops. A tuba player recalled watching people running in panic while his band played.

The attack shuttered much of the North Shore while law enforcement from more than 100 agencies searched for the gunman. Parades and events in nearby towns were canceled while many sheltered in place, leaving quiet streets on the normally jubilant holiday.

Police arrested Crimo Monday evening following an hourslong search. He had previously been described as a “person of interest” in the case by Highland Park police. After a short chase, he was apprehended without incident, authorities said.

Police recovered a rifle at the crime scene.

Crimo posted online videos under the name The Awake Rapper, some with chilling references to violence, including one that features footage of a young man in a bedroom and a classroom along with cartoons of a gunman and people being shot.

On Tuesday morning, downtown Highland Park was still littered with detritus left behind during the shooting. The parade route was lined with abandoned lawn chairs and strollers. American flags waved.

Some stunned residents tried to keep to normal routines, while bracing for more news of the dead and injured. Others picked up trash outside of the area still cordoned off by police.

In one case, officers let a sobbing woman through the police tape to retrieve a car seat.

Outside the Highland Park Police Department, two young girls wrote in multicolor chalk on the pavement: “Thank you first responders.”

A block from the parade route, a group of men met for coffee near a Starbucks, where they’ve gathered every morning for 15 years. They had to bring their morning coffee from Dunkin’ because their store remained closed.

”We meet here every day to talk normally about fun stuff. Today is not so fun,” Highland Park resident Andrew Stone said. ”This is such a small community. We’re all going to know someone who was injured.”

The men tried to find out who among the people they knew was shot. A family friend took a bullet to the foot. A woman at the temple had been killed, they found out.

They argued over why it happened here, in the tight-knit community they once thought was safe. Across the table, Jim Terman said he had been watching the parade from the block where the shooting happened. He can’t stop thinking about it.

”It just runs through your mind,” he said.

Authorities have not released the names of the victims, but details about some of those who were killed and injured have emerged.

Chicago Public Schools teacher Zoe Kolpack was shot in the femur while attending the parade with her husband, Stephen; their two young children; her parents; and Stephen’s family, according to family friend Samantha Whitehead, who is raising money for medical costs.

Whitehead said Stephen Kolpack and Zoe’s dad, Mike Joyce, were shot in the leg as well, while Stephen’s brother, Nicholas, was shot in the kneecap. The injuries are not life-threatening, and the Kolpack children were unharmed, Whitehead said.

Whitehead said Zoe’s mother, Nancy Joyce, grabbed the two small kids and hid in a nearby building for about 45 minutes, until they were given the all-clear.

Meanwhile, Zoe’s dad “was hovering (over) her and protecting her because she couldn’t move. And she just said that, like, people were just running past her, and she was just screaming, ‘help, help.’ She said she felt like it went on for like 30 minutes,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead had raised about $140,000 through GoFundMe as of Tuesday morning.

In a statement, CPS said it was “devastated to learn that one of our CPS teachers and her family members are among those who were injured in Monday’s mass shooting in Highland Park.” Zoe, who has worked for the district since 2017, teaches preschool at William Dever Elementary School on the Northwest Side. CPS said “support services will be available to support the Dever Elementary staff and students as needed.”

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