Celebration to Chaos: Highland Park Fourth of July shooting leaves two DePaul alumni and five others dead


AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Residents from around the Highland Park, Ill., area listen during a vigil in Highwood, Ill., for the victims of Monday’s Highland Park Fourth of July parade mass shooting, Wednesday, July 6, 2022.

The soft clang of someone climbing the metal fire escape couldn’t be heard over the marching band performing in the Highland Park Fourth of July parade.

Band members played their joyous hearts out that morning for their community, only to be interrupted by a man aiming a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 semiautomatic rifle down at the crowd. The sounds of popping and shrieking shortly followed. 

The screams of toddlers and panicked footsteps of mothers carrying children began to ring through the streets instead of the upbeat tunes of trumpets and snare drums.

Paramedics and police officers stormed into the rainfall of bullets to help people who fell to the ground screaming in pain or people laying in a puddle of their own blood in complete silence. 

Fathers and mothers pounded their fists on business doors, others tried to break into buildings so families could get to safety. Grocery stores and the Highland Park Police Department became safe havens for sobbing children, worrying mothers, grandparents being pushed in the swarm of scurrying people and fathers hiding their fear to seem strong in front of their children.

In the midst of the panic, the gunman, Robert “Bobby” Crimo III, 21, slipped into the crowd dressed in women’s clothing — to cover his tattoos and general identity — and made his way to his vehicle, according to Christopher Covelli, Deputy Chief of Lake County. Shortly after, he drove off, heading to Madison, Wisc. before anyone had the chance to catch him. 

In his car, he had a second rifle with 60 rounds of bullets prepared. He already shot over 70 rounds of bullets from the rifle he used during the parade, according to Covelli. 

As Crimo drove off to escape the scene, people bled out on the streets of Highland Park. Many were taken off to local hospitals by ambulances or private vehicles. While people were still attempting to get inside buildings for safety, two-year-old Aiden McCarthy cried out for help and was passed along to strangers as everyone was sprinting running to find shelter. 

After about nine hours, over 30 people were injured and six people were declared dead. A large-scale effort via social media was made to find the parents of the toddler. The parents, Irina McCarthy, 35, and Kevin McCarthy, 37, died in the shooting. Both the parents were DePaul alumni. 

Upon learning about the alumni deaths, DePaul President A. Gabriel Esteban released a statement in which he attached a GoFundMe for Aiden and his family. The GoFundMe has already raised $2.6 million. Esteban also requested students, staff, faculty and alumni keep the family in their prayers.

“We remain heartbroken by this news and the seemingly never-ending atrocious acts of violence that have taken the lives of our alumni and countless others,” Esteban said in his statement. “We mourn with Highland Park, Chicago and our nation and continue to pray for peace.”

Yesenia Hernandez, granddaughter to Nicolas Toledo, who was killed during Monday’s Highland Park., Ill., Fourth of July parade, writes on a memorial for Toledo along with the six others who lost their lives in the mass shooting, Wednesday, July 6, 2022, in Highland Park. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

At around 7:45 p.m., when Crimo was driving back to Illinois from Wisconsin, an alert member of the community noticed the car model and license plate identified as what police said Crimo was driving, Covelli said. The community member called 911 and from there, a northern Chicago police officer chased after Crimo’s car and called for backup. After a brief pursuit, Crimo was taken into custody.

As Crimo was taken off to the Highland Park Police Department, police searched his car where they found the second rifle, according to Covelli. SWAT team members who were stationed outside of Crimo’s house — located on the corner of Deerfield Rd. and McDaniels Ave. — busted down the door and found more firearms inside of Crimo’s house. All were legally bought.

In the final hours of the day, leading into July 5 and 6, investigators said Crimo confessed to being the gunman. They also found Crimo had no motivation to begin the shooting based on race or religion. But, Crimo has “some type of affinity towards the number four and seven, which inversely is 7/4,” Covelli said during a press conference on July 6. He added that police will not speculate on a motive regarding the shooting.

 Additionally, Crimo confessed on July 6 that he drove to Madison, Wisc. on July 4 and saw another holiday celebration and “seriously contemplated” shooting again, according to Covelli.

While Crimo did not attack again in Wisconsin, the seventh victim of the shooting died on July 5. Despite the shooting injuring a range of people between the ages of 8 and 85 years old, the seven victims that died were between the ages of 35 and 88 years old, according to Covelli.

The seven victims are Irina, Kevin, Jacki Sundheim, 63, Nicolas Toledo-Zaragoza, 78, Stephen Straus, 88, Katherine Goldstein, 64, and Eduardo Uvaldo, 69.

The children and most of the adult victims that were hospitalized are now either discharged or are in stable condition at local hospitals. One child who was in critical condition was flown out via helicopter to the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital after being stabilized at a local hospital on July 4. The child has been in stable condition since that evening, according to Dr. Brigham Temple, who is stationed at the North Shore Hospital near Highland Park. 

Following the tragedy, community members commemorated the deaths of those who were lost on July 4 by laying out bouquets of flowers by the scene that was sealed off with caution tape that evening. Community members shed tears as they placed their flowers wrapped in paper packaging down on the sidewalks and grass surrounding the area. 

Others went to local churches. Christians in the area — regular attendees of Christ Church Highland Park, non-regulars and even non-religious people — gathered inside the church, sang worship songs and prayed for those who were injured and those who lost their lives, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Area residents visit a memorial to the seven people who lost their lives in the Highland Park, Ill., Fourth of July mass shooting, Wednesday, July 6, 2022, in Highland Park. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

To make the residents of Highland Park feel acknowledged for their losses and United States citizens aware of the shooting, several politicians spoke over the span of the last couple of days about the shooting and how gun violence is impacting communities across the nation.

On July 4, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Sen. Tammy Duckworth spoke at a press conference to address their anger regarding gun violence.

“If you’re angry today, I’m here to tell you ‘Be angry,’” Prtizker said. “As a nation we continue to allow this to happen. Mass shootings have become our weekly tradition.”

Duckworth noted her sympathy to parents with children who feared for their child getting killed during the shooting. 

“We have to get rid of assault weapons, high capacity magazines and so many other additional common sense reforms that wide majorities of Americans are crying out for,” Duckworth said. “Today I will go home and hug my babies a little tighter in gratefulness that they are safe. But I think about the babies and the families who lost moms and dads and grandparents today and we must do more.”

Beyond the local government, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris acknowledged the shooting and gave their condolences. 

Biden, in a statement on July 4, said he offered Highland Park the support of the federal government and federal law enforcement to assist in the search of the shooter when the hunt was ongoing.

“Jill and I are shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day,” Biden said in his statement. “I will monitor closely as we learn more about those whose lives have been lost and pray for those who are in the hospital with grievous injuries.”

Harris took the condolence one step further and flew into Chicago on July 5. She said the shooting “should have never happened” during her speech.

“We talk about it being senseless — it’s absolutely senseless,” Harris said to the residents of Highland Park. “I want you [to] hold each other tight as a community — that you know you have a whole nation who cares deeply about you and stands with you.”

While many are grieving the loss of family members and friends, Crimo is currently being charged with seven counts of intentional first-degree murder, according to Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart. Crimo currently faces a mandatory lifetime sentence and is expected to be charged with further crimes once the investigation is fully developed, according to Rinehart.

For those who are looking to support those who lost their family members during the shooting or have family members who are facing medical bills as a result of injuries, there are several GoFundMe’s that the families of victims are sending out. 

Rinehart also emphasized in his latest press conference that the case is still ongoing and anyone who has video or photographic evidence of the Highland Park shooting is urged to submit it to the Highland Park police. The Highland Park Police Department can be reached by contacting (847) 432-7730.