A man suspected of killing seven people during a July 4 parade near Chicago has been planning the attack for weeks, police say.
Law enforcement officials believe 21-year-old Robert Crimo III legally purchased the powerful rifle he used in the attack.
The suspect is believed to have disguised himself in women’s clothing to escape the scene with the runaway crowd, authorities added.
About 30 people were also injured in Monday’s shooting in Highland Park, an affluent suburb of Chicago.
Police say they are still collecting evidence of the shooting, during which the suspected gunman is accused of firing more than 70 shots. Speaking at a press conference, Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Chris Covelli said he believed the suspect used a disguise to escape the scene, walking to his mother’s house in women’s clothing.
“He blended in with everyone else as they ran, almost as if he were also an innocent bystander,” Covelli said at a press conference.
Investigators believe the suspect’s costume allowed him to hide his facial tattoos and help him escape.
Tribute to the victims of the July 4th shooting
The gunman had legally purchased five firearms about a year ago, police say.
In April 2019, police were called to his home a week after the alleged suicide attempt. “It was a mental health problem,” Covelli said on Tuesday, adding that the problem was left to “mental health professionals.” In September 2019, a family member of the suspect called the police and said he was violently threatening to “kill everyone”.
Police responded and removed 16 knives, a dagger and a sword from his home. He was not arrested and no further action was taken.
After an eight-hour manhunt on Monday, police arrested the 21-year-old while he was driving a car, where he was discovered with a second rifle similar to the one used in the attack.
Other firearms were also found in Crimo’s home, police said, but no further details were provided. Police said the evidence obtained from a gun left at the scene was an “important investigative clue” that helped them identify the suspect.
They believe the Highland Park victims were targeted at random, with no information suggesting the attack was motivated by racial or religious hatred.
Authorities are still considering what criminal charges to bring against Crimo, who is believed to have acted alone.
He is expected to appear in court on Wednesday.
Filming began around 10:15 am (3:15 pm GMT) on Monday, just minutes after Highland Park’s annual Independence Day parade.
Police believe the suspect used a fire escape to reach the roof of a shop overlooking the parade route before shooting at the crowd below.
One of the deceased has been identified as Nicolás Toledo, a man in his seventies who was only there because he needs full-time care and his family didn’t want to miss the event.
“What was supposed to be a fun family day out has turned into a horrible nightmare for all of us,” his granddaughter Xochil Toledo wrote on GoFundMe.
Another victim of the shooting was named Jacki Sundheim, who was described by her local synagogue as a “beloved” member she taught and worshiped there.
“There are not enough words to express the depth of our grief over Jacki’s death and our sympathy for her family and loved ones,” she reads in a statement from the North Shore Congregation Israel synagogue.
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