A Lake Forest, Ill., police officer walks down Central Ave in Highland Park, Ill., on Monday, July 4, 2022, after a shooter fired on the northern suburb's Fourth of July parade. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Chicago Tribune - Brian Cassella

Police visited July 4 shooting suspect’s home twice in 2019, seizing knives and sword

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — Police in a Chicago suburb visited the home of the suspect in the Fourth of July mass shooting twice in 2019, including after one report that Robert E. Crimo III told a family member he planned to “kill everyone.”

A spokesman for the Lake County Major Crime Task Force told a news conference that the first interaction was in April 2019 when police in Highland Park, Ill., were contacted about Crimo attempting suicide a week earlier.

Christopher Covelli says police responded and spoke with Crimo’s parents, and the matter was dealt with by mental-health professionals as it wasn’t a law enforcement issue.

He says the next interaction happened in September of that year, when a family member reported that Crimo said he was going to “kill everyone,” and that he had a collection of knives.

Covelli says police went to his home, where they removed 16 knives, a dagger and a sword, but there was no probable cause to arrest and no complaints signed by anyone.

He says the Highland Park Police Department did immediately notify the Illinois State Police about the incident.

Authorities have also released the identities of six of the seven victims: Katherine Goldstein, 64; Irina McCarthy, 35; Kevin McCarthy, 37; Jacquelyn Sundheim, 63; and Stephen Straus, 88, all from Highland Park; as well as Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78, of Mexico.

More than 30 people were injured in the latest mass shooting to scar a community in America.

Police told an earlier news conference that the suspect planned the attack for several weeks and wore women’s clothing to disguise his identity.

Covelli said Crimo wore the clothing to conceal his facial tattoos and to blend into the crowd as he fled the scene.

He said the suspect brought a legally purchased high-power rifle to the parade, accessed a roof of a business via a fire escape ladder and fired more than 70 rounds at people gathered at the Independence Day celebration.

After the attack, police said he dropped his rifle and escaped, blending into the crowd as if he were an “innocent spectator” and walking to his mother’s house, where he borrowed her car.

Police put out an alert with information about Crimo and the vehicle, and a member of the public who spotted the vehicle dialed 911 and officers were able to apprehend him.

Covelli said a second rifle was located in the vehicle, also purchased by Crimo, and the suspect remains in custody. An update on charges is expected later today.

The deputy chief added there is no indication that anyone else was involved in the attack and a motive has not been determined. Police have no information that it was religiously or racially motivated, Covelli said, adding it appears to be “completely random.”

Covelli added Crimo is actually 21, not 22 as previously reported, and is a resident of Highwood, Ill.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said at the news conference that Tuesday is a day of grieving together, to pause and to remember those who died as well as honour those who were injured.

She also told CNN that she was once the alleged gunman’s Cub Scout pack leader.

“Many years ago, he was just a little boy, a quiet little boy that I knew,” Rotering said. “It breaks my heart. It absolutely breaks my heart.”

Video clips posted to social media showed the festivities collapsing into panic as revellers realized they were under fire and scrambled for cover.

The violence erupted just six weeks after a deadly elementary school rampage in Uvalde, Texas, killed 19 children and two teachers.

The confluence of America’s birthday and a worsening epidemic of gun violence is sure to conjure a familiar brew of hurt, helplessness and outrage.

A statement from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas described a “celebration of our nation punctured by tragedy,” and commended the efforts of local law enforcement.

“The security of our homeland requires more; It requires all of us, together, to address the epidemic of targeted gun violence” with new community-based prevention and intervention strategies.

In a tweet late Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered condolences to the victims, their families and the Highland Park community.

They “wanted nothing more than to celebrate their country … but instead had their lives change forever,” Trudeau tweeted.

“To the injured, and to the loved ones of the victims: Canadians are keeping you in our thoughts.”