Prosecutors: Highland Park mass shooting suspect contemplated second attack in Wisconsin
The 21-year-old Highwood man accused of carrying out a mass shooting during the Highland Park Independence Day parade Monday admitted to police officers that he carried out the attack, prosecutors said during a Wednesday bond court hearing.
Additionally, officials said the shooting suspect considered another attack in or near Madison, Wisconsin after he fled Highland Park.
Robert Crimo III, 21, faces seven counts of first-degree murder, one for each victim.Lake County Judge Theodore S. Potkonjak revoked the suspect's bail at a bond court hearing held over Zoom Wednesday morning.
Assistant State's Attorney Ben Dillon said the accused made a voluntary statement to Highland Park police officers confessing his actions.
Dillon said the accused told police he dressed in women's clothing and wore makeup to conceal his identity, accessed the roof using a stairway and looked down his sights to shoot at the people across the street.
Dillon added that the accused told police he used three 30-round ammunition magazines during his rooftop attack and officers have recovered 83 spent shell casings from the roof.
Dillon said the accused identified himself and the weapon he used in the attack when shown surveillance camera images.
After the bond hearing, Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said while the suspect was driving near Madison after the Highland Park shooting he seriously considered using another weapon and 60 rounds of ammunition he had to commit another mass shooting at a Fourth of July celebration he happened upon.
Covelli said investigators believe the suspect decided not to launch a second attack at the celebration in or near Madison because he had not put enough thought or research into it. Officials believe the accused put weeks of planning into the Highland Park attack.
Even though the suspect dropped the AR-15 rifle he used in the Highland Park shooting near the scene, Covelli said he was still in possession of a semi-automatic weapon and had 60 rounds of ammunition on him when he came upon the celebration near Madison.
Covelli said the suspect's cellphone, which he disposed in Middleton, Wisconsin near Madison, has been recovered by FBI evidence technicians. Eventually, the suspect decided to return to Illinois where he was apprehended by officers following a traffic stop around 6:30 p.m. Monday.
Gregory Ticsay, an attorney in the Lake County Public Defender office assigned to represent the accused, said at the hearing his client did not have any money to post bail if a cash bond were set.
Prosecutors are seeking life in prison. Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart said after Wednesday's hearing that his office is preparing additional charges to account for those injured in the attack.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for July 28.
After the shooting, authorities say, the suspect descended from the rooftop, leaving the rifle near the scene, and blended in with the fleeing crowd. The suspect then walked to his mother's home nearby, Covelli said. Cellphone and surveillance video provided by the public helped identify the suspect dressed as a woman.
"The community has been absolutely terrific in providing information," Covelli said.
Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were able to quickly trace the weapon, linking it to the suspect, authorities said.
After stopping at his mother's, where he gave no indication of involvement in the shooting, the suspect drove off in a 2010 Honda Fit, Covelli said. He drove to the Madison, Wisconsin, area before returning to Illinois. It was then that an alert citizen spotted the vehicle along Route 41 in North Chicago and called 911. Police responded, and after a brief pursuit, the suspect was taken into custody at Route 41 and Westleigh Road in Lake Forest.
A second rifle -- also purchased legally -- was found in the car, and more firearms were recovered at a Highwood home where the suspect was living, Covelli said.
Authorities Tuesday detailed two prior contacts law enforcement had with the suspect, both in 2019. They include an incident in September of that year when a family member reported he was going to "kill them all," Covelli said.
Highland Park police responded and confiscated 16 knives, a sword and a dagger, but no firearms were found in his possession. Covelli said family members would not sign a complaint against him, so there was no probable cause for arrest, but Illinois State Police were notified of the incident.
In a statement released Tuesday evening, state police confirmed receiving a "Clear and Present Danger" report on the suspect from the Highland Park Police Department. At that time, he did not have a Firearm Owners Identification card to revoke or a pending application to deny, state police said, and his family did not provide information on threats or mental health that would have warranted additional action, so state police involvement ended, the statement said.
Two months later, state police said, the suspect applied for a FOID card. Because he was under 21, the application was sponsored by his father. State police said that as a result, when the FOID application was reviewed in January 2020, there was insufficient basis to deny it.
In a later statement, state police said the suspect passed four background checks when purchasing firearms, on June 9, July 18 and July 31, 2020, and Sept. 20, 2021. The only offense included on his criminal history was an ordinance violation in January 2016 for possession of tobacco, according to state police.
The suspect's family issued a statement through prominent Chicago attorney Steve Greenberg, who said they had retained his firm's services.
"We are all mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and this is a terrible tragedy for many families, the victims, the paradegoers, the community, and our own," the statement reads. "Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go out to everybody."
Covelli said Tuesday police had not been made aware of previous social media postings by the suspect, which have been described as troubling, but investigators are reviewing those now. Asked whether they would have been investigated had police been tipped off earlier, Covelli replied, "Absolutely."
"Law enforcement is going to do everything it can to keep the community safe, but if we don't know about it, it's hard to investigate," he said.
• Daily Herald staff writers Eric Peterson and Chuck Keeshan contributed to this report.