US authorities Tuesday announced that the death toll from the July 4 shooting during an Independence Day celebration parade in Highland Park, Illinois, had gone up to seven casualties, while a suspect has been apprehended in connection with the crimes.
A 21-year-old man who had allegedly spent weeks planning the shooting and who fled the scene in women's clothing has been arrested.
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering confirmed that a seventh victim of the attack had died Tuesday, while 39 others had been wounded, according to the latest update from health authorities.
The suspect, named Robert Crimo, was captured several hours after the attack, following a brief, uneventful chase. Investigators have confirmed he had purchased the high-caliber rifle used through a legal retailer. He also had other firearms, which he also purchased legally.
The perpetrator allegedly climbed onto a rooftop and fired indiscriminately more than 70 times into the crowd, Lake County Sheriff's Department Deputy Director Christopher Covelli explained Tuesday.
Last month, 19 children and 2 teachers were shot and killed by an 18-year-old who stormed an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, with a semi-automatic rifle he had legally purchased. After the Uvalde attack and another in Buffalo (New York), with 10 deaths, Congress approved in June to increase control over firearms, with a minimum agreement between Democrats and Republicans.
Crimo has been charged with 7 counts of first-degree murder. The state of Illinois has abolished the death penalty. If found guilty, Crimo would spend the rest of his life in jail without the possibility of an early release, Prosecutor Eric Rinehart told reporters. More charges will be filed in the coming days in connection with the 39 people wounded.
According to police sources, Crimo spent weeks planning the shooting and disguised himself in women's clothing so as not to arouse suspicion during his escape while hiding his facial tattoos.
Authorities have so far been unable to establish Crimo's motives. We have no information to suggest at this point whether he was racially or religiously motivated, Covelli admitted to reporters who suggested an anti-Semitic angle because the area where the shooting took place has a large Jewish population.
The officials did conclude, however, that Crimo had acted alone. He took a high-powered rifle to the parade, gained access to the roof of a store through the fire escape, and began to open fire on the innocent people attending the Independence Day celebration, Covelli said.
After the shooting, Crimo left the rooftop from which he fired, threw down his rifle and mingled with the crowd as if he were just another parade spectator, and headed for his mother's house in the vicinity, where he took his mother's vehicle to escape, but was intercepted as he tried to flee. Inside that car, police found a second rifle.
Local media have echoed several violent videos and messages that Crimo had uploaded to social networks before the attack, including a staged school shooting. Crimo had depicted in his videos various forms of murder, and in one of the latest, he showed a beheading. YouTube had shut down the young man's page Monday evening.
We know that many of the videos he posted reflected a plan and a desire to commit a killing, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering told CNN.
US President Joseph Biden ordered Tuesday that flags fly at half-staff at all federal buildings until next Saturday, including diplomatic missions and military installations abroad. The decision, according to a White House statement, was a sign of respect for the dead, one of them a Mexican national, and the wounded.
The new law, signed by Biden, includes a review of the process of purchasing guns for those under 21 years of age. And it extends the so-called Red Flag rules to the entire country. These allow the activation of a legal procedure to confiscate firearms from those who represent a danger to others or to themselves.
The legislation also seeks to put an end to what is known as the boyfriend loophole, whereby until now, if someone was accused of domestic violence without being married, they were allowed to continue to own guns, unlike in the case of married people.
Despite this legislative milestone, the country's conservative majority Supreme Court in June expanded the right to bear arms by endorsing that they can be carried in public.
Since the beginning of 2022, a total of 317 people have reportedly lost their lives in the US in similar mass shootings, which require at least 4 victims other than the perpetrator to fall into that category.