HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — Police launched a massive manhunt Monday for a rooftop shooter after at least six people were killed and 24 more were injured at a July Fourth parade in an affluent Chicago suburb, authorities said.
A high-powered rifle has been found, and police are searching for a gunman, described as a white man ages 18 to 20 with long black hair, who opened fire about 10:14 a.m. CT, Highland Park Police Cmdr. Chris O’Neill told reporters.
Police do not believe the shooter is holed up nearby, and they said he should be considered armed and dangerous, officials said.
The city of Highland Park confirmed that there was “an active shooter incident” and said all “individuals are advised to shelter in place.”
Police were spotted scouring rooftops around Central Avenue near Green Bay Road and Second Street.
“It does appear that he was shooting from a roof,” Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli told reporters. The shooter got to his elevated locale by scaling a ladder attached to a building, Covelli added.
The parade included scores of police and fire personnel. Shortly after gunfire erupted, officers moved toward the elevated sniper — causing him to stop and flee.
“He was discreet and very difficult to see,” Covelli said.
Five of those who were six killed were pronounced dead at the scene, and the sixth victim died a hospital, Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek said.
Brigham Temple, medical director of emergency preparedness for Northshore Medical Group, said at a news conference that 26 people were initially seen at Highland Park Hospital. Of those, 25, ages 8 to 85, sustained gunshot wounds.
Nineteen of the patients were treated and released, he said. Among the rest, some were in critical and serious conditions, Temple said. A few were transferred to nearby trauma centers, he said.
Four or five children were treated at the hospital, Temple said.
Six people were taken to Lake Forest Hospital, and seven were taken to Evanston Hospital, Highland Park Fire Chief Joe Schrage said earlier.
Paradegoers who might have lost contact with friends and family members were urged to go to the Highland Park Police Department to be reunited with them.
After the shooting, discarded camping chairs, U.S. flags, plastic cups and other belongings littered the parade route, left behind by people who had come out to celebrate July Fourth before they fled for their lives.
In the business district near the scene, dozens of people were sheltering in businesses, awaiting SWAT teams who escorted them out to safety.
Helicopters circled overhead as the manhunt continued for the shooter who rained terror on what was supposed to have been a celebration of the nation’s freedom.
The street was dotted with military-style trucks filled with fatigue-clad, armed personnel inside and black, windowless vehicles marked “police rescue vehicle.”
The gunfire, described by police as a “tragic, massive act of violence,” terrorized residents of the typically tranquil suburb more than 25 miles outside Chicago. The median home in Highland Park is valued at $535,000, and more than 75 percent of people 25 and over have college degrees, according to census data.
Mayor Nancy Rotering thanked police officers for their fast response.
“Our community has been terrorized by an act of violence that’s shaken us to our core,” she said.
Illinois State Police also responded, “assisting Highland Park PD with an active shoot situation,” according to a statement the agency tweeted.
The Chicago Police Department dispatched a helicopter and other officers in the manhunt, officials said.
Fourth of July events in other Chicago suburbs — Evanston, Deerfield and Skokie — were called off in the wake of the shooting.
“There’s a lot of communities that are not looking forward to celebrating after something like this happens right in their backyard,” Covelli said.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was at the planned Evanston event when the Highland Park shooting unfolded.
“There are no words for the kind of monster who lies in wait and fires into a crowd of families and children celebrating a holiday with their community,” Pritzker said in a statement.
“I will stand firm with Illinoisans and Americans: we must — and we will — end this plague of gun violence.”
Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., was at the Highland Park event when shots rang out.
“My campaign team and I were gathering at the start of the parade when shooting started,” Schneider said in a statement. “My team and I are safe and secure.”
Witness Larry Bloom said that at first people thought the popping sound was part of the parade.
“You heard like a ‘pop, pop, pop,’ and I think everybody kinda thought maybe it was a display on one of the floats, and then it just opened up,” he told NBC Chicago.
“I was screaming, and people were screaming,” Bloom added. “They were panicking, and they were just scattering, and I, you know, we didn’t know. You know, it was right on top of us.”
It was the third major mass shooting in the U.S. since May.
Ten Black people were killed in Buffalo, New York, on May 14 when a white gunman, allegedly motivated by racial hate, opened fire at Tops Friendly Market.
Less than two weeks after the Buffalo massacre, 19 children and two teachers were gunned down at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, about 80 miles west of San Antonio.
The bill, the most sweeping legislation aimed at preventing gun violence in 30 years, provides grants to states for “red flag” laws, enhances background checks to include juvenile records and closes the “boyfriend loophole” by keeping guns away from unmarried dating partners convicted of abuse.
It will also require enhanced background checks for people ages 18 to 21 and funding for youth mental health services.
David K. Li reported from New York City and Natasha Korecki from Highland Park, Illinois.