Suspect in Chicago July 4 parade attack fled with crowd in women's clothes


A tricycle is seen near the scene of a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade route, in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Illinois, U.S. July 4, 2022. REUTERS/Max Herman

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (Reuters) -The man accused of attacking a Fourth of July parade in a Chicago suburb bought his rifle legally, fired more than 70 rounds from a roof and dressed in women's clothing to blend into the fleeing crowd afterwards, local officials said on Tuesday.

The suspect, 21-year-old Robert E. Crimo III, surrendered to police on Monday, hours after the attack in Highland Park, Illinois, in which six people were killed and more than 30 people were wounded.

Among the dead were Nicholas Toledo, a grandfather from Mexico in his 70s celebrating with his family among the flag-waving crowds at Monday's parade, and Jacki Sundheim, a teacher at a nearby synagogue.

Officials told reporters the suspect had planned the attack for several weeks and fired into the crowd at random. Authorities were still considering what criminal charges to bring. It was not immediately clear if Crimo had a lawyer.

Crimo has distinctive facial tattoos, and wore women's clothing on Monday in an apparent effort to mask his identity, Chris Covelli, a spokesperson for the Lake County Sheriff's office, told reporters.

"He blended right in with everybody else as they were running around, almost as if he was an innocent spectator as well," Covelli said. The suspect fled to his mother's house nearby, and later borrowed his mother's car.

Officials said they did not know the motive for the shooting in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, but had no evidence of any anti-Semitic or racist basis. Investigators were reviewing videos he had made filled with violent imagery.

The suspect used a high-powered rifle for the attack, similar to an AR-15, which he dropped at the scene.

He had a similar rifle in his mother's car, which he was driving when taken into custody by police, and owned other guns at his home, all of which were bought legally in Illinois, officials said.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said the community of 30,000 was still in shock.

"This tragedy should have never arrived at our doorsteps," she told NBC News. "As a small town, everybody knows somebody who was affected by this directly and, of course, we are all still reeling."

President Joe Biden ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff in mourning until sunset on Saturday.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month asserted a constitutional right to carry weapons in public in a ruling that made it easier for pro-gun groups to overturn modern gun regulations. It has since thrown out a lower court ruling upholding Maryland's ban on assault weapons.

A string of mass shootings has renewed U.S. debate about gun safety.

Congress last month passed its first major federal gun reform in three decades, providing federal funding to states that administer "red flag" laws intended to remove guns from people deemed dangerous.

The law does not ban sales of assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines but does take some steps on background checks by allowing access to information on significant crimes committed by juveniles.

21-YEAR-OLD SUSPECT

Rotering, the city's mayor, said she knew the suspect when he was a little boy and a Cub Scout and she was a Cub Scout leader.

"What happened? How did somebody become this angry, this hateful?" she said. "Our nation needs to have a conversation about these weekly events involving the murder of dozens of people with legally obtained guns."

The suspect's father, Bob Crimo, ran Bob's Pantry and Deli in Highland Park for at least 18 years, according to a Chicago Tribune business profile. Bob Crimo closed the deli in 2019 before he unsuccessfully ran against Rotering for mayor of Highland Park.

Online social media posts written by the suspect or his rapper alias, Awake The Rapper, often depicted violent images or messages.

One music video posted to YouTube under Awake The Rapper showed drawings of a stick figure holding a rifle in front of another figure spread on the ground.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien, Jonathan Allen, Tyler Clifford, Christopher Gallagher, Christopher Walljasper and Doina Chiacu, Editing by Alistair Bell and Howard Goller)

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