Highland Park police 'clear and present danger' warning insufficient to keep alleged parade shooter from purchasing rifle, state police say




  • In US
  • 2022-07-07 00:33:00Z
  • By Chicago Tribune

Two days after a mass shooting at the Highland Park Independence Day parade shocked the country and put renewed focus on weaknesses in Illinois' gun laws, authorities continued to hash out how alleged gunman Robert Crimo III apparently bought a high-powered rifle despite troubling episodes in his background.

A 2019 report from Highland Park police warning that Crimo could pose a "clear and present danger" did not meet standards to declare him an imminent threat, said representatives of the Illinois State Police, which administers permits. And nothing under current law would have stopped them from issuing him a gun permit a few months later, ISP Director Brendan Kelly told reporters Wednesday.

Crimo went on to legally obtain several firearms - including the rifle he allegedly used to shoot dozens of people at the Highland Park parade this week.

Lake County prosecutors said in court Wednesday that Crimo fired a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle and had three 30-round magazines with him when he opened fire from a rooftop.

When he was done, there were 83 shell casings left where he allegedly positioned himself for the attack that killed seven and injured dozens. Crimo faces multiple counts of first-degree murder connected to the massacre; he was ordered held without bail after a brief hearing Wednesday.

His FOID card was approved in January 2020, four months after Highland Park Police told state police someone had reported Crimo making threats in his household to "kill everyone."

"We've done a very thorough vetting over the past 48 hours looking into every aspect of this," ISP Director Brendan Kelly said Wednesday. "And if you look at the report that was understandably submitted by the Highland Park Police Department, in response to the information that they had, and then you look at the law with regards to clear and present danger … that did not meet that threshold."

When Crimo later applied for the FOID, "All the things that under the law that would be able to help us stop from issuing a firearms identification card, none of those factors were present at the time," Kelly said. Typically those stops include a felony conviction or committal to a mental health facility.

Officials revealed this week that, while Crimo did not previously have any significant criminal record, police had twice been in contact with him in 2019.

The first contact police had with Crimo was in April 2019 when they were called because Crimo had allegedly attempted suicide about a week earlier. Officers determined that the matter was being handled by mental health professionals.

On Sept. 5 of that year, someone reported to police that they were told Crimo made threats on Sept. 2 to "kill everyone," according to public records released by Highland Park.

Police made contact with Crimo for a well-being check, and Crimo "admitted to being depressed" on the day he allegedly made the threat, a police report states.

"Robert was not forthcoming as to the language that he used on (Sept. 2) nor was his mother," the report states.

Crimo denied that he felt like harming himself or others, and police removed more than a dozen knives from his bedroom closet; his father Robert Crimo Jr. said they were his. Police returned the knives to Crimo's father.

No arrests were made. Highland Park police did, however, submit a Clear and Present Danger report to Illinois State Police regarding Crimo.

State regulations require law enforcement and school officials to complete such a report when they determine someone might pose an imminent threat of harm to themselves or others. When state police receive the report, they are responsible for making the final determination about whether the threat is valid.

And, Kelly said Wednesday, the Highland Park police report did not meet that standard.

"What we have here is an officer that looked at a report and he saw a single individual make a report to another individual about a threat made by (Crimo)," Kelly said.

"The police tried to corroborate that. They could not corroborate it. They had the individual saying that they were neither a threat to themselves or others. And you had the mother also agreeing with that individual."

The available text in the redacted police reports does not specifically state that Crimo's mother disputed the threat of violence or agreed that Crimo was not a threat; however, some portions of the reports were blacked out.

In addition, when the report was filed, Crimo did not have a FOID card or a pending application. So at the time they received the report, there was nothing to revoke or deny, Illinois State Police officials said earlier this week.

Crimo's father was not living with Crimo or Crimo's mother at the time of the alleged 2019 threats, according to Steve Greenberg, an attorney for the parents.

Greenberg told the Tribune that Crimo's father did not know about the incident involving his son's alleged threats when he sponsored Crimo's FOID application a few months later.

Crimo was 19 when he applied for the gun permit in December 2019. Anyone under 21 must have their application "sponsored" by a parent or guardian, according to state police. The sponsor is required to fill out an affidavit swearing that the sponsor does not have any felony convictions, drug addictions, or recent institutionalizations for mental health reasons - that is, that the sponsor would be eligible for a FOID.

Illinois State Police reviewed his application in January 2020, and issued Crimo his FOID card. In February 2020, Crimo bought the Smith & Wesson rifle he allegedly used to shoot dozens of people at this year's parade.

Crimo legally purchased five firearms in total between 2020 and 2021, including the Smith & Wesson. Crimo had no significant criminal history, and passed several background checks in the process of purchasing his guns, according to state police.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers still had questions about how Crimo's FOID card application was approved.

""If we have people who are legally buying guns and they are what we consider the wrong people, we have to stop that," said Democratic State Rep. Kathleen Willis of Addison, who has sponsored legislation aimed at strengthening the FOID laws. "... How can we make sure we have all of the best information going forward so we don't have the wrong people buying guns in this state?"

In a statement, a spokesperson for Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the administration would "once again review everything we know about this gunman in the context of our laws and determine what more we can do to continue our public safety work."

"As this investigation progresses in the coming weeks we will learn more about this incident and if the law may have fell short, and it is imperative we have all of the facts so we can work together to strengthen the laws already on the books," said the statement from Jordan Abudayyeh.

Federal officials were able to trace the weapon after Crimo apparently dropped it as he exited the area.Authorities have said he apparently left it behind while dressed as a woman, perhaps to aid him in blending in with the fleeing crowd as he escaped the parade route.

The serial number on the firearm was traced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, which determined it had been manufactured by Smith & Wesson. In all traces, agents then contact manufacturers to find out where the weapon was shipped, typically for sale.

That point of sale is also investigated by ATF agents, who interview the federally licensed dealer who sold the rifle. Paperwork retained by FFL dealers includes the name of purchasers, officials and experts have said, in this case Crimo.

The name of the FFL dealer is being withheld because interviews are still being conducted about the sales, said Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Chief Chris Covelli, a spokesman for the task force investigating the shooting.

mcrepeau@chicagotribune.com

asweeney@chicagotribune.com

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