Highland Park suspect had 2 interactions with police prior to legally purchasing guns

·Senior Writer
·3 min read

The shooter who allegedly killed seven people at the Highland Park, Ill., Independence Day parade had two prior interactions with police but was not placed on the red flag list that would have prevented him from buying the guns used in the attack.

Chris Covelli, spokesperson for the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference that 21-year-old Robert Crimo III had the police called on him twice in 2019. Crimo was arrested late Monday after fleeing police following a morning shooting that authorities say he had been planning for several weeks.

Covelli said that the first incident was in April 2019, when police were called a week after a reported suicided attempt and mental health professionals spoke to Crimo and his family. The second incident was in September 2019, when a family member reported that Crimo was threatening to “kill everyone.” Police responded and confiscated 16 knives, a dagger and a sword. Covelli said he was not sure if the weapons had ever been returned to Crimo but that the incident was reported to the Illinois State Police.

Mourners lay flowers along the parade route in Highland Park, Ill.
Mourners lay flowers along the parade route in Highland Park, Ill. (Cheney Orr/Reuters)

Over the course of approximately a year, encompassing parts of 2020 and 2021, Covelli said Crimo had legally purchased five firearms, including two rifles. Asked why he was able to make those purchases following the 2019 incidents, Covelli referred the inquiry to the state police, which handles the Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card system.

An Illinois State Police spokesperson told WGN News, a Chicago-area TV news outlet, that in the words of WGN reporter Ben Bradley, “since Crimo didn’t have a FOID card at the time of the September 2019 threat to ‘kill everyone’ there was no FOID card to revoke.” In Illinois, a FOID card is required to purchase a firearm.

“Spokesperson did not explain why he wasn’t flagged to prevent the future issuance of a FOID card,” Bradley added.

After authorities named Crimo as a person of interest, NBC News reported that his social media posts included "tributes to mass shootings." He also performed as a rapper named Awake, whose music videos included depictions of mass murder. Covelli said those posts and videos were not reported to the police.

Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek began briefing by listing the names of six of the seven victims: Jacki Sundheim, 63, Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 77, Stephen Straus, 88, Katherine Goldstein, 64, Irina McCarthy, 35, and Kevin McCarthy, 37. A seventh victim was pronounced dead at a Cook County Hospital Tuesday afternoon but their name has yet to be released. At least 30 people were injured in the attack.

Police on the scene after Monday's mass shooting in Highland Park
Police on the scene a day after Monday's mass shooting in Highland Park. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

At a press conference earlier Tuesday, Covelli said that, during the attack, Crimo was “dressed in women’s clothing and investigators believed he did this to conceal his facial tattoos and his identity and help him during the escape,” Covelli said. “He was seen on video camera in women’s clothing.”

According to police, Crimo allegedly climbed a fire escape ladder onto the roof of a business and opened fire on the spectators below.

Police said he then dropped the rifle, which he had legally purchased in Illinois, left the roof, joining the crowd fleeing the scene, and walked to his mother’s home.

“He blended right in with everybody else as they were running around,” Covelli said, “almost as if he was an innocent spectator.”

There is no indication Crimo gave his mother any information about the attack, Covelli said. He borrowed her car, whose details were included in the alert police issued Monday afternoon. A member of the community saw the vehicle and called 911. Police located the vehicle, conducted a traffic stop and apprehended the suspect without incident, Covelli said.

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