NOTE: This story contains disturbing imagery and content. Please read at your own discretion.
Robert E. Crimo III, the person of interest in a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill., was an aspiring rapper whose social media videos and posts showed violent and ominous imagery often glorifying mass shootings and killings.
Crimo, 21, was taken into custody Monday after an hours-long manhunt when police pulled him over after a brief car chase. Police have not said what specific information led them to Crimo, but Chris Covelli, spokesperson for the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, told reporters on Tuesday that police believe “Crimo pre-planned this attack for several weeks.”
Covelli also told reporters that Crimo dressed in women’s clothes to distract from his facial tattoos.
“During the attack, Crimo was dressed in women’s clothing and investigators do believe he did this to conceal his facial tattoos and his identity and help him during the escape,” Covelli said of the 21-year-old in custody.
Police said the shooter’s attack came from a rooftop above the parade route, firing into a crowd that was gathered to watch the Independence Day parade. Police believe the shooter used a ladder in an alley to climb up onto the roof.
“Following the attack, Crimo exited the roof, dropped his rifle and he blended in with the crowd and he escaped,” Covelli said.
“He blended right in with everybody else as they were running around almost as if he was an innocent spectator as well.”
From there, Covelli said, Crimo allegedly walked to his mother’s house, borrowed her car, and tried to make his way out of town.
Neighbours told CBS News that Crimo lives in a home with his father and uncle. As of this writing, he has not yet been formally charged in the shooting that left seven people dead and dozens more injured.
Crimo, who goes by the name Bobby, was a rapper with the stage name Awake the Rapper, posting on social media dozens of videos and songs, some with threatening, dark language.
In one animated video that has since been taken down by YouTube, Crimo raps about armies “walking in darkness” as a drawing appears of a man pointing a rifle, a body on the ground and another figure with hands up in the distance. A later frame shows a close-up of a chest with blood pouring out and another of police cars arriving as the shooter holds his hands up.
In another video, in which Crimo appears in a classroom wearing a black bicycle helmet, he says he is “like a sleepwalker — I know what I have to do,” then adds, “Everything has led up to this. Nothing can stop me, even myself.”
According to NBC News, the YouTube account that hosted his videos, which had previously been accessible to the public, was unavailable as of Monday night.
Following the shooting Monday, 26 patients were sent to Highland Park hospital with gunshot injuries, according to Dr. Bringham Temple, medical director of emergency preparedness for NorthShore University Health Center.
Their ages range from eight to 85 years old, he said, and include four or five children. Some are in critical condition, including one child, and 19 have been treated and discharged.
NorthShore University HealthSystem said it treated 39 people at four of its hospitals after the shooting. Nine people, ranging from 14 to 70, remain hospitalized Tuesday. One patient, a 69-year-old man, was in critical condition from a gunshot wound.
On Tuesday afternoon authorities confirmed another person had died, but details of the person’s age and name have not been released.
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering told CNN that she believes the assault rifle used by the suspected shooter was purchased legally. She said her office is waiting for authorities to file charges against “the individual.” Covelli, also addressed this Tuesday, saying based on the info they have thus far it appears the rifle was purchased legally in Illinois.
In an interview with Today, Rotering said it appeared that several of the suspect’s online postings “reflected a plan and a desire to commit carnage for a long time in advance.”
“And it’s one of those things where you step back and you say, what happened? How did somebody become this angry and hateful?” she said.
“To then take it out on innocent people who literally were just having a family day out?”
NBC News reports that Crimo was active on Discord, an online app that allows users to send and share messages, media and files. According to the outlet, Crimo hosted his own channel on the app, which featured a politics board filled with “nihilistic political memes.”
NBC News also reports that suspect posted frequently to a server that shared graphic depictions of death, suicide and murder. Last week, in his last posting before the shooting, he shared a video of a beheading.
Federal agents were reviewing Crimo’s online profiles, and a preliminary examination of his internet history indicated that he had researched mass killings and had downloaded multiple photos depicting violent acts, including a beheading, a law enforcement official said.
The official could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Rotering told Today that she did not think Crimo had been linked to previous crimes or was known to police prior to the shooting.
“Whether it’s Buffalo, N.Y.,, Uvalde, Texas, or Highland Park, Ill., this is unbelievable to me, that this is an acceptable part of who we are as a nation,” Rotering said, referencing a recent string of mass shootings in the U.S.
The suspect’s uncle, Paul Crimo, told CNN he didn’t believe his nephew had a job and was last employed at Panera Bread before the pandemic. He described his nephew as a “lonely, quiet person” who “keeps everything to himself.”
Police have not suggested a potential motive for the attack.
In a statement regarding the shooting, U.S. President Joe Biden said: “Jill and I are shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community this Independence Day. As always, we are grateful for the first responders and law enforcement on the scene.
“I will not give up fighting the epidemic of gun violence.”
— With files from Global News’ Eric Stober and Sean Boynton and The Associated Press