The suspect turned back to Illinois, where he was later arrested, after deciding he was not prepared to pull off another attack in Wisconsin, Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli said at a news conference following a hearing on Wednesday (Thursday AEST) where the 21-year-old man was denied bond.
The parade shooting left another American community reeling – this time affluent Highland Park, home to about 30,000 people near the Lake Michigan shore. More than two dozen people were wounded, some critically, and hundreds of marchers, parents and children fled in a panic.
Covelli said it did not appear that the suspect had planned another attack in Wisconsin, but fled there, saw another Independence Day celebration and “seriously contemplated” firing on it. The assailant had ditched the semi-automatic rifle he used in Illinois, but he had another, similar rifle and about 60 more rounds with him, according to Covelli.
Police later found his phone in Middleton, Wisconsin, which is about 215km from Highland Park.
For hours before his arrest, police warned that the gunman was still at large and that he should be considered armed and dangerous. Several nearby cities cancelled events including parades and fireworks. Most festivities in and around Wisconsin’s capital city went ahead.
Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Ben Dillon said in court that the gunman climbed up the fire escape of a building above the Highland Park parade, “looked down his sights, aimed” and fired at people across the street. He left the shells of 83 bullets and three ammunition magazines on the rooftop.
He initially evaded capture by disguising himself as a woman and blending into the fleeing crowd, according to police.
Some of the wounded remained hospitalised in critical condition, Covelli said, and the death toll could still rise. Already, the deaths from the shooting have left a two-year-old boy without parents, families mourning the loss of beloved grandparents and a synagogue grieving the death of a congregant who for decades had also worked on the staff.
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said he planned to bring attempted murder and aggravated battery charges for each individual who was hurt.
“There will be many, many more charges coming,” he said at a news conference, estimating that those charges would be announced later this month.
If convicted of the first-degree murder charges, the gunman would receive a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
The suspect, Robert Crimo III, wore a black long-sleeve shirt as he appeared in court by video. As the prosecutor described the shooting, he said little besides telling the judge that he did not have a lawyer.
Rinehart also left open the possibility of charging Crimo’s parents, telling reporters that he “doesn’t want to answer” that question right now as the investigation continues.
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