Highland Park mass shooting suspect pleads not guilty to 117 charges
The 21-year-old Highwood man accused of carrying out a mass shooting at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade pleaded not guilty to the 117 criminal charges against him during a hearing at the Waukegan courthouse Wednesday morning.
Robert Crimo III is accused of opening fire from a rooftop at spectators in the streets below. Seven gunshot victims died and officials say more than 50 others were injured, both by gunfire and in the rush for safety that followed.
During the brief hearing, Judge Victoria Rossetti explained the charges to the accused and asked him whether he understood. The accused spoke during the hearing only to answer the judge's questions.
If found guilty of at least two of the murder charges, the accused could be sentenced to life in prison, Rossetti said.
The courtroom gallery was packed with Highland Park community members, including some survivors of the shooting.
Highland Park resident Ashbey Besley was waiting to walk in the parade with her 6-year-old son when shots rang out. She and her son were able to run away safely, but Besley told reporters it was important for her to attend the hearing for her friends and neighbors who could not because of the injuries they sustained that day.
She said she also was there to give power and strength to the state's attorney, who she believes will bring the accused to justice.
The parents of the accused also attended the hearing. Local criminal defense attorney George Gomez told reporters after the hearing he is representing the parents, helping them cooperate with the authorities and speaking on their behalf to the media. Gomez said the parents have not been charged with any crimes related to what their son is accused of doing.
"Obviously, they're still devastated by what has occurred on July 4. However, it is their son and they're trying to support (him) as much as possible," Gomez said. "The family, at the end of the day, wants to help the community heal but also have their privacy remain intact."
The accused is charged with 21 counts of first-degree murder, three for each of the seven people killed by gunfire; 48 counts of attempted murder; and 48 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm for each person struck by a bullet, bullet fragment or shrapnel.
Officials have said the accused confessed to Highland Park police that he wore women's clothing and makeup to conceal his identity, accessed the roof using a stairway and looked down his sights to shoot at the people across the street. Investigators recovered 83 spent shell casings from the rooftop.
Besley said that since the shooting she has met with lawmakers several times to discuss new gun control proposals, including a ban on certain high-powered weapons. She said she hopes the Highland Park shooting will be the turning point in the effort to fight gun violence.
"In seconds, he fired off nearly 100 rounds," Besley said. "It will happen again if there is no assault weapons ban."
The next hearing in the case is set for Nov. 1.