Alleged gunman facing 7 counts of 1st degree murder after mass shooting at Fourth of July parade in Illinois

The man alleged to have opened fire on a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill., is facing seven counts of first-degree murder. Police allege he fired more than 70 shots with an AR-15-style gun from atop a commercial building into a crowd gathered for a parade on Monday, killing seven people.

Has history of mental health problems, fired more than 70 rounds, police say

The man alleged to have opened fire on a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill., is facing seven counts of first-degree murder, Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart announced Tuesday night.

"What should have been a celebration of freedom has ended in despair for our community. All of the people who died steps from here lost their freedom, all of it," he told an assembled crowd not far from the crime scene.

Rinehart said more charges will follow, but the seven counts alone will keep the suspect in prison for life without a possibility of parole if he is convicted.

Police allege the man fired more than 70 rounds with an AR-15-style gun from atop a commercial building into a crowd gathered for a parade on Monday, killing seven people, then evaded initial capture by dressing in disguise and blending into the fleeing crowd.

More than 45 people were killed or wounded in the attack, including one who died Tuesday, according to Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesperson Christopher Covelli.

Police allege that after the shooting, the suspect dropped the rifle and escaped, blending into the crowd as though he was an "innocent spectator," dressing as a woman to conceal his facial tattoos. He walked to his mother's house and borrowed her car, according to police.

A police officer pulled over the suspect about eight kilometres north of the shooting scene several hours after police released his photo and warned that he was likely armed and dangerous, Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen said.

WATCH | History of mental health problems, police say:
The Highland Park Police Department describe two separate incidents in 2019 where they were made aware of suicidal and potentially violent intentions from the alleged gunman in the deadly mass shooting at an Independence Day parade in the Chicago suburb.

In one of two news conferences held earlier Tuesday, police said they had previously had two previous encounters with the suspect, Robert E. Crimo III. In April 2019, police were notified he had attempted suicide. That September, a family member advised police Crimo had said he was going to "kill everyone" and had a collection of knives, Covelli said.

Police removed 16 knives, a dagger and a sword from Crimo's home. "At that time, there was no probable cause to arrest," Covelli said.

Crimo is believed to have legally bought guns after that encounter, Covelli added.

Crimo, who goes by the name Bobby, was an aspiring rapper with the stage name Awake the Rapper, posting on social media dozens videos and songs, some ominous and violent.

In one animated video since taken down by YouTube, Crimo raps about armies "walking in darkness" as a drawing appears of a man pointing a rifle, a body on the ground and another figure with hands up in the distance.

'It's commonplace now'

The shots at the parade were initially mistaken for fireworks before hundreds of panicked revellers fled in terror.

A day later, baby strollers, lawn chairs and other items left behind by panicked parade-goers remained inside a wide police perimeter. Outside the police tape, some residents drove up to collect blankets and chairs they had abandoned.

The July 4 shooting was just the latest to shatter the rituals of American life. Schools, churches, grocery stores and now community parades have all become killing grounds in recent months. This time, the bloodshed came as the nation tried to find cause to celebrate its founding and the bonds that still hold it together.

WATCH | Weapon was purchased legally, police say:
The suspected gunman spent weeks planning a mass shooting at an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Ill., and dressed as a woman to avoid being identified, police said Tuesday.

"It's commonplace now," resident Ron Tuazon said as he and a friend returned to the parade route Monday evening to retrieve chairs, blankets and a child's bike that he and his family abandoned when the shooting began.

"We don't blink anymore. Until laws change, it's going to be more of the same."

U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered American flags be flown at half-staff through Saturday as a "mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of gun violence perpetrated on our Independence Day."

Most victims identified

The shooting occurred at a spot on the parade route where many residents had staked out prime viewing points early in the day for the annual celebration. Police announced six of the slain victims' names on Tuesday. Most of them lived in Highland Park.

The list included was Jacki Sundheim, a lifelong congregant and "beloved" staff member at nearby North Shore Congregation Israel, which announced her death on its website. She was 63.

Also killed was Nicolas Toledo, who was visiting his family in Illinois from Mexico. He died at the scene, his granddaughter, Xochil Toledo, told the Chicago Sun-Times. He was 78.

Since the start of the year, there have been 15 shootings where four or more people have been killed, including the Highland Park one, according to The Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University Mass Killing database.

Shots fired amid fireworks in Philadelphia

Gunshots also rang out during a Fourth of July fireworks show in Philadelphia on Monday.

Two Philadelphia police officers working at the event in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum suffered graze wounds. The gunfire came hours after the shooting in Illinois.

Witnesses in Philadelphia said they saw some people being run over or banged into as others tried to flee the packed crowd. No serious injuries were reported, although many people said they had scrapes and bruises.

Investigators have not yet determined where the shots came from or how many were fired. It's also unclear whether someone intentionally fired at the officers or if the shots possibly came from someone shooting off a weapon to celebrate the holiday. No arrests have been made.

With files from CBC News

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