Highland Park shooting suspect pleads not guilty to parade massacre charges
WAUKEGAN, Ill. - The suspected gunman behind the Highland Park Fourth of July shooting pleaded not guilty Wednesday to all 117 felony charges in the deadly attack as his parents told reporters they "deeply regret the actions their son had taken."
Robert Crimo III, 21, appeared at the Lake County Courthouse Wednesday where his attorney entered the plea nearly a month after the mass shooting that killed seven people and wounded at least 48 others in Highland Park. Crimo himself answered "yes" to several questions from Judge Victoria Rossetti on whether he understood the case against him.
Crimo was indicted two weeks ago on the charges. They include three counts for each person who died, and counts of attempted murder and aggravated battery for each person wounded that day. He faces natural life in prison if convicted of two or more of the murder charges.
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After his arrest, Crimo allegedly confessed to his actions while being interviewed by police, and said that he dressed up like a girl and covered his tattoos with make-up because people would recognize him.
Crimo entered the courtroom shortly before 11 a.m., his hands shackled to a belt around his waist. He was dressed in a dark blue jumpsuit and wore a blue surgical mask on his face as he sat to the right of his attorneys. Eight sheriff’s deputies stood facing Crimo.
Robert E. Crimo III, walks in to the courtroom during a hearing in Lake County court Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in Waukegan, Ill. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, Pool)
When the hearing began, Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart called up the case and the judge asked if Crimo has seen the indictment. The judge then read each charge as Crimo sat back in his chair, eyes looking straight ahead. He never looked at the gallery where his parents sat, along with family members of the victims.
Crimo’s parents attended the hearing but declined to speak with reporters afterward. An attorney representing them, George Gomez, said the parents are "still devastated by what occurred on the Fourth." He added they "are in shock" at the possibility of a life sentence for their son.
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Asked what the parents want to say to the community, Gomez said, "In hindsight they deeply regret the actions their son had taken. They’re part of the Highland Park community. They’re heartbroken by what happened in that tragic event. They’re here to express their sorrows."
Rinehart, speaking to reporters after the hearing, would not comment on whether there have been any plea negotiations. While Crimo’s attorney did not ask for a trial, the request can be made later.
"They did not request a trial, I’ll leave it to them" to answer why, Rinehart said. Crimo’s next court date was set for 11 a.m. Nov. 1.
Ashbey Beasley witnessed the shooting with her young son and said she attended Wednesday’s hearing "because people from my community cannot be here. They’re not ready. They are broken, living in fear."
She said she wanted "to be a presence for them, to be able to sit in the courtroom and know the people in my town matters, and what happened to them matters."
Beasley said she has faith in the Lake County State’s Attorney and "that he will bring down the hammer of justice on this defendant."
Prosecutors have given no motive for the mass shooting, but during an initial court hearing two days after the shooting, they said Crimo has confessed to firing more than 80 rounds into a crowd of spectators lining the downtown parade route.
On the day of the attack, Crimo dressed in women’s clothing and wore makeup to cover his face tattoos because he feared he would be recognized, prosecutors have said.
Surveillance video allegedly shows Crimo walking down an alley behind a building at the northwest corner of Central Avenue and Second Street and climbing stairs to reach the roof.
Police found 83 shell casings. Paramedics took 52 people to hospitals and five people died at the parade, according to an ambulance report. Two people died later at hospitals.
Despite his disguise, police officers familiar with Crimo identified him in still images taken from surveillance cameras after the shooting, prosecutors said.
Video shows Crimo running down the alley with a bag over his shoulder, and dropping a rifle wrapped in a cloth, prosecutors said. Police recovered the weapon within minutes and traced it to Crimo, who had purchased it in 2020 when he was 19.
Crimo went to his mother’s nearby home and took off in her car as police launched a manhunt. He drove to Madison, Wisconsin, where he spotted a group of people and thought about shooting them with a second rifle in the car, authorities have 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, authorities said.
He turned back, dumped his cellphone in nearby Middleton and was finally spotted Monday evening in North Chicago, about eight hours after the shooting. He was arrested around 5:30 p.m. after a brief car chase.
The victims who died are: Katherine Goldstein, 64; Irina McCarthy, 35; Kevin McCarthy, 37; Jacki Sundheim, 63; Stephen Straus, 88, all of Highland Park; Nicolas Toledo, 78, of Morelos, Mexico; and Eduardo Uvaldo, 69, of Waukegan.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.