The Illinois teen accused of fatally gunning down seven people and wounding dozens more at a Fourth of July parade dressed as a woman to disguise himself during the rampage, police announced Tuesday.
Highland Park resident Robert "Bobby" Crimo, 21, "did this to conceal his facial tattoos and his identity, and help him during the escape with... other people who were fleeing the chaos," Dep. Chief Christopher Covelli, a spokesman for the Lake County Sheriff's Office, said at a press conference.
The gun used at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade was purchased legally in Illinois by Crimo, who had been planning the attack for "several weeks," according to Covelli. After the massacre, he blended into the crowd and ran to his mother's home, he added. Police believe Crimo fired more than 70 rounds at innocent spectators there to enjoy the day, Covelli said.
"My boyfriend handed me this little boy and said he was underneath this father who was shot in the leg," one parade-goer told The Daily Beast. "They were trying to stop the bleeding so I brought the boy downstairs into the garage."
Crimo's disguise reportedly included a dress and a long wig, which can be seen in a photograph obtained by Chicago news outlet WGN Investigates.
On Tuesday morning, Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering used an interview on NBC's Today to reflect on the horrific slaughter in her quiet Chicago suburb. Highland Park has had an assault-weapons ban in place since 2013. Illinois does not have a statewide assault weapons ban, but does require mandatory background checks, bars domestic abusers and stalkers from buying guns, and prohibits people from carrying guns inside schools, bars, and at demonstrations. According to gun safety nonprofit Everytown, Illinois' gun laws are the sixth-toughest in the U.S. behind Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, and California-which has a 37 percent lower death rate from guns than the national average.
"I don't know where the gun came from, but I do know that it was legally obtained," Rotering said. "I think at some point, this nation needs to have a conversation about these weekly events involving the murder of dozens of people with legally obtained guns. If that's what our laws stand for, we need to re-examine the laws."
Authorities have not yet released the exact make of the gun or where and when it was bought, but Covelli described it as "similar to an AR-15." It was left on the rooftop that the gunman used as a sniper's nest, firing indiscriminately into crowds of families enjoying the parade. The Highland Park Police Department did not respond to The Daily Beast's request on Tuesday morning for more information about the purchase of the weapon.
NBC 5 reports that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms used DNA collected from a rifle found at the scene of the attack to identify Crimo. In addition to the ATF, Covelli said the Highland Park PD, the Lake County Major Crime Task Force, the Illinois State Police, and the FBI were assisting in the investigation, as well.
Local law enforcement detained Crimo after a short chase Monday evening, after a cop spotted his silver Honda Fit.
"There are no indications that there was anybody else involved in this attack," Covelli said on Tuesday. "By all indications, it appears Crimo was acting by himself."
Disturbing videos posted on the Illinois local's social-media channels-where Crimo used the alias Awake the Rapper-are riddled with violent images and mass-shooting fantasy, including an animation in which a gunman is killed by cops.
As The Daily Beast reported, Crimo last year posted a video on his personal blog that showed Central Avenue in Highland Park-the main artery of yesterday's parade route.
Another made reference to John F. Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Crimo also reportedly posted a video to an online message board of a person being beheaded.
Crimo is a videogamer and pro wrestling fan, his social-media footprint suggests. His precise political affiliations are still somewhat unclear-he has shared photos of himself wearing a Trump flag at one of the ex-president's rallies but has also liked posts featuring President Joe Biden.
Much of Crimo's social media presence includes a symbol that roughly resembles one used by Suomen Sisu, a far-right Finnish organization that "seeks to protect Finnish culture [and] traditions." (Other Finns have described the group as "Nazi-spirited.") Crimo, however, does not mention Suomen Sisu by name in his postings. He also served as the administrator of a Discord channel called "SS" that has since been taken down.
On Tuesday, Covelli said investigators are "reviewing" Crimo's online activities to "see what they reveal."
Mark Heymann, 22, told The Daily Beast he grew up with Crimo-and that they were in Cub Scouts together in elementary school-but "couldn't say he knew him too well."
"He was a year younger than me. I knew who he was and I knew his name," Heymann said, adding that despite Crimo not being his friend, he knew "something off, something wasn't right about him."
"I don't remember him in any specific friend group in high school, but he was definitely a loner," he added.
Over the past 24 hours, detectives have spoken with "numerous witnesses," and have already analyzed "numerous video clips, both from cellphone video recordings and fixed cameras in the area," according to Covelli.
But authorities have apparently not yet homed in on a motive, with Covelli telling reporters that cops "have no indication to suggest at this point that it was racially motivated, motivated by religion."
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