HIGHLAND PARK, United States: Before he allegedly murdered seven spectators at a US Independence Day parade, the Highland Park community knew Robert Crimo as a quiet kid and former Cub Scout.
But online, the 21-year-old known to friends and family as “Bobby” showed a strong inclination for violence and anger at being overlooked.
“I know him as somebody who was a Cub Scout when I was the Cub Scout leader,” Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering told NBC on Tuesday, describing Crimo as “just a little boy”.
“It is one of those things where you step back and you say, ‘What happened?’”
Crimo, who grew up in Highland Park, just outside Chicago, lived in an apartment behind his father’s house. His dad, Bob Crimo, owned a local deli and had run against Rotering for mayor in 2019.
Crimo’s uncle, Paul Crimo, described his nephew on CNN as a “lonely, quiet person” who spent much of his time in front of his computer, not saying much.
A day after the shooting, authorities revealed that in 2019 Crimo had been visited twice by police, first after a suspected attempt at suicide, and a second time to remove a collection of knives, after he allegedly threatened to “kill everyone”.
A thin white man with a patchy beard, Crimo sports several tattoos on his neck and face, including one above his left eyebrow of the word “Awake”, a reference to his stage name.
Multiple songs and videos posted online by “Awake the Rapper” include several references to mass shootings.
In one cartoon-style music video, the protagonist is seen shooting people with a rifle before finding himself lying in a pool of blood, shot dead by the police.
“I just want to scream. Sometimes it feels like I’m living a dream,” sings the rapper.
Another video is of Crimo in a classroom, wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest and standing next to an American flag as he throws bullets on the floor.
The voiceover on that video says, “I need to leave now, I need to just do it. It is my destiny. Everything has led up to this; nothing can stop me, not even myself.”
In another clip, Crimo says, “I hate when others get more attention than me on the Internet.”
The videos and songs have now been removed from YouTube and Spotify.
Crimo’s social media pages have also been taken down, but archived photos from his accounts appear to show him at a rally for then-president Donald Trump.
In another, Crimo appears to have a Trump flag draped around his shoulders. He also posted a picture of “Pepe the frog”, a cartoon character that has become a rallying symbol for the American far right.
Bennett Brizes, a friend who had recently become estranged from Crimo, told the Washington Post the young man was “consistently apolitical”, and when asked about current events would always answer, “Man, I don’t know.”
Crimo “seems to have intended violence for a long time, even illustrating it” in his videos, said Emerson Brooking, a research fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank specialising in extremist Internet and social media usage.
But even with the apparent pro-Trump images, “so far it does *not* appear that he was partisan or ideological,” Brooking said on Twitter. – AFP