Highland Park suspect confessed to July 4 massacre, drove to Wisconsin but opted not to open fire there, prosecutors say

Robert Crimo III has confessed to firing more than 80 shots from a roof during Highland Park’s July 4 parade, killing seven and wounding dozens, and has told investigators he thought about firing at a group of people in Wisconsin hours later but decided against it, officials said Wednesday.

“He was driving around … he did see a celebration that was occurring in Madison and he seriously contemplated using the firearm he had in his vehicle to commit another shooting,” Lake County Major Crimes Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli said.

“We don’t have information to suggest he planned on driving to Madison initially to commit another attack,” Covelli sad. “We do believe he was driving around from the first attack and saw the celebration.”

Police and prosecutors have so far disclosed no motive for the rampage, but Crimo apparently had an “affinity” for the number 47, which was painted on his car, according to Covelli. Flip the numbers, Covelli said, and you have 7 and 4, the date of the shooting.

The disclosures came after Assistant State’s Atty. Ben Dillon told a judge during a bond hearing Wednesday morning that Crimo, 21, has made “a voluntary statement confessing to his actions.” The judge denied bail.

Wearing a black collarless T-shirt that showed a tattoo of a rose winding around his neck, Crimo was silent for most of the hearing and showed no reaction as Dillon recited the names of the seven victims and described the scene from Monday’s massacre.

On the day of the attack, Crimo dressed in women’s clothes and wore makeup to disguise himself and hide his tattoos because he feared he would be recognized.

Dillon said Crimo admitted that he took a position on the roof of a building overlooking the parade route and “looked down his sights and opened fire.” Crimo fired a 30-round magazine, then fired two more. Police found 83 shell casings on the roof, Dillon said.

Five people died at the scene, and a sixth died later at a hospital. A seventh victim died Tuesday afternoon. In all, more than two dozen people were hit by gunfire, Dillon said.

After firing off nearly all of the ammunition he had, Crimo climbed back down and ran away but dropped the rifle, Dillon said.

The gun was traced to Crimo within an hour. It had been legally bought by Crimo in 2020 when he was 19. Authorities say his father had to sponsor him to get a Firearm Owners Identification card because the age limit is 21.

Despite his disguise, police officers who “were familiar” with Crimo were able to identify him in still images taken from surveillance cameras, Dillon said.

Crimo went to his mother’s house nearby and took off in her car as police launched a manhunt and neighboring towns canceled their Independence Day festivities, police say.

Crimo made it as far as the Madison area, where he spotted a group of people and thought about shooting them with a second rifle in the car, Covelli said. Crimo had about 60 rounds in the car with him, but he apparently felt he hadn’t put enough “thought and research” into opening fire, Covelli said.

He turned back, dumped his cellphone in Middleton, Wis. and was finally spotted Monday evening in North Chicago, about eight hours after the shooting. He was arrested around 6:30 p.m. after a short chase at an intersection about 10 miles from the shooting.

Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes said he was “are deeply troubled to learn the suspected Illinois parade shooter considered carrying out another attack here in Madison. We feel for the grieving families in Highland Park and all those forever impacted by the events of Monday’s shooting. We recognize tragedy very well could have taken place in our own community.”

Barnes said his department was “waiting to hear more information about the facts of the case from our law enforcement partners. Mass shootings are far too common in our country.”

Crimo faces seven counts of first-degree murder, the first of what Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said would be “dozens” more charges filed against Crimo from Monday’s shooting.

Rinehart announced the charges Tuesday, a few hours after Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek released the names of six of the people who died: Katherine Goldstein, 64; Irina McCarthy, 35; Kevin McCarthy, 37; Jacqueline Sundheim, 63; Stephen Straus, 88, all of Highland Park, and Nicolas Toledo, 78, of Morelos, Mexico.

Rinehart said the investigation remains active, and asked for witnesses and anyone with video from the shooting to come forward.

Crimo has no prior criminal record in Cook or Lake counties. But officers twice visited his home in 2019 to investigate calls from family members, according to police.

The first time was in April 2019, in response to a report of a suicide attempt by Crimo. Then in September of that year, a family member called to report Crimo had threatened to “kill everybody” and that he had a large collection of knives.

Police took 16 knives, a dagger and a sword from the home and filed a “clear and present danger report” with the Illinois State Police.

Nevertheless, the state police issued a Firearm Owners Identification card to Crimo in January 2020 when he was 19. He was too young to get a card on his own (the minimum age in Illinois is 21), so his father sponsored him, which is allowed under state law.

Police recovered five weapons in all from Crimo, including the rifle recovered at the scene and a second one found in his car at the time of his arrest. Several handguns were found in his home, all purchased legally from sellers in Illinois, police said.

Wednesday’s bond hearing began with confusion over who was representing Crimo. Attorney Thomas Durkin had indicated Tuesday that he was taking the case, but when Crimo was asked if he had a lawyer, he responded, “No, I do not have a lawyer.”

As assistant public defender, Gregory Ticsay, was assigned to confer with Crimo. When they returned, Ticsay said Durkin planned to attend but was unable to immediately enter the Zoom hearing.

Ticsay complained that Durkin was “wasting my client’s time,” and the proceedings continued with Ticsay representing Crimo and the prosecutor detailing the case against Crimo.

Durkin finally appeared just before the judge ruled on a request for no bail, saying a “personal conflict” kept him from representing Crimo. “He is going to need the public defender,” Durkin said.

Ticsay said he would not oppose a no bail order “at this time.”

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